Fire has torn quickly through a house in a Pennsylvania suburb, killing seven adults and three children and horrifying a volunteer firefighter who arrived to battle the blaze only to discover the victims were his family.
The three children who died were ages 5, 6 and 7, Pennsylvania State Police said in a news release, while the seven adults ranged from the late teens to a 79-year-old man. Autopsies were planned for the weekend.
Harold Baker, a Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company firefighter, said by phone that the 10 victims included his son, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives.
He said his two children and the other young victims were visiting their aunt and uncle's home for summertime activities like going to a swimming pool.
He said 13 dogs were also in the two-storey home, but didn't say if he knew whether any survived.
A preliminary investigation suggests the fire broke out on the front porch about 2.30am on Friday,
Three people were able to escape the blaze. Four state police fire marshals are involved in the investigation and the case won't become a criminal investigation unless they determine the fire was intentionally set, he said.
The three young children who died did not live in the home.
Baker said that the address initially given for the call was a neighboring home, but that he realized it was his family members' 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 newspaper of Wilkes-Barre.
"I was on the first engine, and when we pulled up, the whole place was fully involved. We tried to get in to them."
One of the victims, 19-year-old Dale Baker, was a firefighter who had joined the company when he was 16, said Heidi Knorr, the fire company's secretary.
"He was such a fun loving soul," she said in a phone interview. "He just loved life."
Both of Dale Baker's parents are members of the fire service, and the family was "always willing to help lend a hand to anyone in need," Knorr said. Dale's mother was not among the dead listed by Harold Baker.
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.
"The kids that were there and my two kids were just visiting their aunt and uncle," Baker told WNEP.
"Those were the ones who own the house. They were there visiting and going into the pool and all that."
Australian Associated Press