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First to Arrive, Firefighter Has Horrific Realization About What He’s Facing


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 By The Associated Press
 August 5, 2022 at 1:21pm


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Fire quickly tore through a house in Nescopeck, Pennsylvania, early Friday morning, killing seven adults and three children and horrifying a volunteer firefighter who arrived to battle the blaze, only to discover the victims were his own family, authorities said.

The children who died were ages 5, 6 and 7, Pennsylvania State Police said in a news release, while the seven adults ranged from their late teens to a 79-year-old man. Autopsies were planned for this weekend.

Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter in Nescopeck, said the 10 victims comprised his son, daughter, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, three grandchildren and two other relatives. Baker said his two children and the other young victims were visiting their aunt and uncle’s home for swimming and other summertime activities.

Baker said the address initially given for the call was a neighboring house. He realized it was his family members’ residence as the firetruck approached. He said his unit was the first on the scene and the house already was engulfed in flames.

Baker said 13 dogs also were in the two-story home, but he didn’t say whether any survived.

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“All I wanted to do was go in there and get to these people, my family. That’s all that I was thinking about, getting in to them,” Baker said in a phone interview.

Baker grabbed a hose and air pack and started pouring water on the fire, desperate to make his way inside and calling out to his son. His fire chief realized whose house it was, and fellow firefighters escorted Baker back to the firehouse.

A preliminary investigation suggests the fire broke out on the front porch at about 2:30 a.m., Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said Friday evening.

“The information I have is that the fire started and progressed very quickly, making it very difficult to get out,” Sanguedolce said.

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Three people escaped the blaze, the DA said. Four state police fire marshals are involved in the investigation, although it won’t be classified as a criminal probe unless they determine the fire was intentionally set, he said.

Nescopeck is a small town on the Susquehanna River, about 20 miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre. The house was on a residential street of largely owner-occupied, single-family homes.

“There wasn’t nothing we could’ve done to get in there. We tried, but we couldn’t get in,” said Baker, 57, a firefighter for 40 years.

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

“He said it all his life — he was just going to be like his dad,” Harold Baker said.

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Heidi Knorr, the Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Company secretary, called Dale Baker “such a fun-loving soul. He just loved life.”

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, who said 14 people were living in the home. In addition to the three who escaped, one was out delivering newspapers.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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