7 adults, 3 kids dead in house fire; criminal probe underway

Associated Press

Nescopeck, Pa. – Seven adults and three children are confirmed dead after a house fire early Friday, Pennsylvania State Police said in a news release.

A criminal investigation is underway, authorities said.

The children who died in the fire were ages 5, 6 and 7.

Crews work to demolish a house that was destroyed by a fatal fire on the 700 block of 1st St. in Nescopeck, Pa., Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Co. firefighter Harold Baker told the Citizens’ Voice newspaper of Wilkes-Barre that he realized when he arrived at the scene that the victims were his relatives. Baker said the 10 victims of 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.

Firefighters set up lights in front of a fatal house fire at 733 First Street in Nescopeck, Pa, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. The fire in Nescopeck was reported around 2:30 a.m. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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.

A Pennsylvania State trooper and members of the Luzerne County Coroner Office stand in front of an early morning fatal fire at 733 First Street in Nescopeck, Pa., Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

“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.”

Firefighters work on hot spots in the front section of the home which collapsed during an early morning fatal fire on First Street in Nescopeck, Pa., Friday, Aug. 5, 2022.

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.