TOP STORIES The fire killed 10 relatives of the firefighter, three...

The fire killed 10 relatives of the firefighter, three of them children

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On Friday, firefighters lit a light at the site of a house fire in Neskopek, Pennsylvania, that killed 10 people.

Jimmy May/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise via AP


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Jimmy May/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise via AP


On Friday, firefighters lit a light at the site of a house fire in Neskopek, Pennsylvania, that killed 10 people.

Jimmy May/Bloomsburg Press Enterprise via AP

NESCOPEK, Pennsylvania. Early Friday morning, the fire quickly engulfed a northeast Pennsylvania home, killing seven adults and three children and frightening a volunteer firefighter who arrived to put out the blaze only to find his own family was the victims, authorities said.

The Pennsylvania State Police said in a press release that the children who died were 5, 6 and 7 years old, while the seven adults ranged from late teens to a 79-year-old man. The autopsy was scheduled for this weekend.

Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter from Neskopek, said the 10 victims included his son, daughter, father-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives. He said that his two children and other young victims visited their aunt and uncle’s house to swim and have fun in the summer.

He said there were also 13 dogs in the two-story house, but did not say if he knew if they had survived.

“All I wanted to do was go there and get to these people, my family. That’s all I thought about getting in touch with them,” Baker said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Baker grabbed a hose and an air bag and started pouring water over the fire, desperately trying to get inside and calling for his son. His superior figured out whose house it was, and fellow firefighters escorted Baker back to the firehouse.

A preliminary investigation suggests the fire broke out on the porch around 2:30 a.m., Lucerne County District Attorney Sam Sangedolse said Friday night.

“I have information that the fire started and spread very quickly, which made it very difficult to get out,” he said.

According to Sangedolce, three people were able to get out of the fire. Four state police fire marshals are involved in the investigation, he said, although it will not be classified as a criminal investigation unless they determine the arson was intentional.

Neskopek is a small town on the Susquehanna River, about 20 miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre. The house was located on a residential street, where the owners of single-family houses mostly lived.

Baker said the address originally given for the call was a neighbor’s house. He realized that this was the residence of his family members when a fire engine arrived. He said his unit was the first on the scene and the house was already engulfed in flames.

“There was nothing we could do to get there. We tried and failed,” said Baker, 57, who has been a firefighter for 40 years.

His son, 19-year-old Dale Baker, followed both parents into the fire department, joining when he was 16.

“He said that all his life, he was just going to be like his father,” said Harold Baker.

Heidi Knorr, secretary for the volunteer fire company Nescopeck, called Dale Baker “such a fun soul. He just loved life.”

The family was “always ready to help lend a hand to anyone in need,” Knorr said. Dale’s mother was not among the dead listed by Harold Baker.

Mike Swank, who lives two houses across the street, said he woke up early Friday morning and looked outside when he heard a sharp explosion. He saw that the porch was “really on fire” and went outside using another neighbor’s hose to keep the fire from spreading to the garage.

“I saw two guys outside and they were in various states of hysteria,” Swank told AP by phone.

One man was talking on his cell phone, “and I’m trying to ask him if everyone’s out,” he said. “The other guy was outside and was just running around in circles.”

Swank said he was unable to get information from them. The fence kept him from reaching the back of the house.

Baker said 14 people lived in the house. One was delivering newspapers, the other three ran away.

Swank said the family moved here a few months ago on what he understood to be a lease-to-own deal and spent a lot of time on the cluttered porch.

“It was so fast and there was so much smoke that you just knew nobody was going to get out,” Swank said. He saw cadaver dogs being used to search the scene until the bodies were found.

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