A volunteer firefighter in rural Pennsylvania responding to a call discovered his own family, including his children and grandchildren, trapped in a devastating house fire that left the residence destroyed and multiple people dead.
Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Co. firefighter Harold Baker described to The Citizens’ Voice newspaper of Wilkes-Barre his horror upon realizing that the fire to which he was responding had trapped members of his own family. Baker told the paper that the fire’s 10 victims were all related to him and he expected their remains to soon be recovered.
The fire broke out after 2:30 a.m. Friday in the small borough of less than 2,000 residents in eastern Pennsylvania, the Voice reported. It’s not clear who owned the home and who resided there, but family members told the paper the house was hosting a gathering and children were sleeping over.
Baker described being on the first engine to respond and how the crew had initially been given his neighbor’s address but soon realized that the fire was at his family members’ address.
When he pulled up to the house, he realized how serious the fire was and how firefighters tried to push their way in to save the occupants, according to the paper.
“We tried the front way, the back way,” Baker told the Voice. “There was no way we could get into it.”
Describing to the paper his feeling of helplessness, Baker said, “I couldn’t get in there to save them. That’s my biggest thing that’s been on me.”
Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Derek Felsman told the paper that three bodies have been removed and expects more to be carried out once they’re identified.
Authorities told WBRE-TV that seven adults and three children died in the fire, with the victims’ ages ranging from 5 to 79. Three other adults made it out of the fire.
“I never seen anything burn so intense,” said Bernie Snedeker, who lives in the neighborhood, while describing the fire to the Times Leader. He said the flames touched the top of the tall trees around the house.
Pennsylvania State Police told the station that the fire is under investigation, which they described as “complex.” Neighbors described hearing loud popping noises to local media outlets.
Baker told ABC affiliate WNEP that he had family ties to all 14 people staying at the home and has not seen or heard from 10 of them.
“I also lost my son, my daughter, grandson, two other grandkids in there, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. All lost,” he said.
Baker told the station that some family members were just visiting the house, which also had 13 dogs in it. In addition to the three who escaped, another had been out working a newspaper route, Baker said.
Newsweek has reached out to the Pennsylvania State Police for comment.