10 Dead in Fast-Moving Pennsylvania Fire, Officials Say


A fire described as “violent” and “forceful” swept through a home in Northeastern Pennsylvania early on Friday morning, killing 10 people, including several relatives of a firefighter who responded to the blaze, according to the authorities and the firefighter.

Among those killed in the fire in Nescopeck, about 45 miles southwest of Scranton, were three children, ages 5, 6 and 7, the Pennsylvania State Police said. The other victims ranged in age from 19 to 79, officials said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. The State Police said three people had been able to escape safely.

Harold Baker, a firefighter with the Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company, was asleep early Friday when he was awakened by the chirping of his pager, which was reporting a fire at a home, with 10 people possibly trapped inside.

Mr. Baker rushed to the station and then was among the first firefighters on the scene. As he turned the corner, his heart sank, he said in a phone interview on Friday evening. The address he had been given was incorrect. His son Dale, 19, and daughter Star, 22, were inside the home engulfed in flames, he said. In fact, Mr. Baker said, he knew everyone in the two-story home, which belonged to his brother-in-law, who was able to escape.

“I tried to get in as fast as I can,” he said. “I tried three times, and then they realized whose house it was and why I was trying to go in there, and they yanked me off,” he said of his colleagues. “They said, ‘No, you got to get the hell out of here.’”

When they found Dale, a volunteer firefighter who had followed in his father’s footsteps, Mr. Baker’s colleagues draped a flag over his body. “They took him out as a fallen firefighter,” he said.

Star Baker, who was to be married next year, also did not make it out alive, Mr. Baker said, adding that he was related to eight of the 10 people who died in the fire.

Violet Kessler of Berwick, Pa., said she was related to many of those who died.

Among the family members she said she lost were her father, a brother, a sister-in-law, a nephew and a niece who was her goddaughter. She said some family members were visiting on Thursday with plans to spend the day together on Friday at a pool and had decided to stay overnight at the house.

“I don’t even understand things,” she said of the losses. “I don’t even know how to take it all into my brain. It’s like a dream.”

A neighbor, Michael Swank, said he had awakened around 2:30 a.m. and heard popping noises, which he had at first thought were gunshots. He looked outside and saw the porch of a house across the street engulfed in flames. He said that the noises he had heard seemed to be cans of paint or propane tanks igniting and exploding.

“I knew the Fire Department was not going to make it in time” to rescue the occupants of the house, Mr. Swank said. He neither heard nor saw any activity to indicate anyone was trying to escape from the fire, he said.

“Boy, it was just a horrendous fire” that spread swiftly from the porch to the upper floors, he said, adding: “It was an inferno. God bless those children that were in there. They didn’t have a prayer.”

In addition to Dale Baker and Star Baker, the State Police identified the adults who died as David Daubert Sr., 79; Brian Daubert, 42; Shannon Daubert, 45; Laura Daubert, 47; and Marian Slusser, 54.

Mr. Swank said that tenants at the home seldom lived there for more than a year or two.

Kirsten Noyes contributed research.

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