As many as 10 people are feared dead after a house fire early Friday in northeastern Pennsylvania, according to a volunteer firefighter who responded and said the victims were his relatives. A criminal investigation is underway, police said.
Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Co. firefighter Harold Baker told the Citizens' Voice newspaper of Wilkes-Barre that the 10 victims the family expected to eventually be found included his 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 a.m. One person was found dead inside the single-family home shortly after emergency responders arrived, while two other victims were found later in the morning.
The victims ranged in age from 6 to 70, authorities said. Some people were able to safely flee the burning home, authorities said, but roughly seven people remained unaccounted for Friday afternoon.
Baker said that the address initially given for the call was a neighboring home, but that he realized it was his family’s residence as the fire truck approached.
“When we turned the corner up here on Dewey (Street) I knew right away what house it was just by looking down the street,” Baker told the Citizens' Voice. “I was on the first engine, and when we pulled up, the whole place was fully involved. We tried to get in to them."
Neighbors reported hearing a loud popping sound or explosion before seeing the front porch of the home rapidly consumed by flames. Some also reported hearing a young man screaming in front of the home, “They’re all dead."
Baker, who was relieved of his firefighting duties because of his relationship to the victims, said 14 people were living in the home. One of them was out delivering newspapers, and three others escaped, he said.
“It’s a complex criminal investigation with multiple fatalities," Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Derek Felsman said. Troopers were interviewing survivors, he said.