The fire quickly swept through a house in the wee hours of Friday, killing seven adults and three children and horrified a volunteer firefighter who arrived to fight the blaze and discovered the victims were his family, authorities said.
Authorities say a criminal investigation into the fire is underway. The children who died in the fire were 5, 6 and 7 years old, Pennsylvania state police said in a press release.
Firefighter Harold Baker of Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Co. told Wilkes-Barre’s Citizens’ Voice newspaper that the 10 victims are son, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives.
The fire in Nescopeck was reported around 2.30 am. Shortly after emergency services arrived, one person was found dead in the family home, while two other victims were found later in the morning.
Some people were able to safely flee the burning house, authorities said.
Baker said the address initially given for the call was a neighboring home, but he realized it was his family’s residence as the fire truck approached.
“As we turned the corner here in Dewey (Street), I knew immediately which house it was, just by looking down the street,” Baker told the Citizens’ Voice. “I was on the first bike and when we stopped, the whole place was completely involved. We tried to get in with them.”
Neighbors reported hearing a loud popping sound or explosion before seeing the porch of the house quickly consumed by flames. Some also reported hearing a young man screaming in front of the house, “They’re all dead.”
Baker, who was relieved of his firefighting duties because of his relationship with the victims, said 14 people lived in the house. One of them was delivering newspapers and three others escaped, he said.
“It’s a complex criminal investigation with multiple fatalities,” said Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Derek Felsman. Troopers questioned survivors, he said.