A Pennsylvania firefighter has spoken of his grief at losing ten family members in a devastating house fire that he responded to.
Harold Baker III said that he was first to the scene of the fire in Nescopeck in the early hours of Friday morning and initially didn’t realise the house engulfed in flames was where 13 of his family members lived.
The 56-year-old explained that witnesses had actually reported that the neighbouring home was on fire in the 911 call.
“I was the first one to show up,” Mr Baker told The Independent. “One of my sons, who passed, was also a firefighter.”
The bodies of ten of his relatives, including his 19-year-old son, have been found, Mr Baker said. Three children between the ages of five and seven are among those killed. Three others managed to escape the inferno.
Mr Baker, who has been a firefighter for nearly four decades, said he desperately regrets he couldn’t save his family members.
“I couldn’t get in there to save them. That is the biggest thing that has been on me. I couldn’t get in there to save them,” he told local news station WNEP, which first reported on the tragedy.
Pennsylvania State Police has identified the adult killed as Dale Baker, 19, Star Baker, 2; David Daubert, 79; Brian Daubert, 4; Shannon Daubert, 45; Laura Daubert, 47; and Marian Slusser, 54.
Violet Kessler, who is related to eight of the victims, told The New York Times some of them had decided to stay over at the home after spending the day together on Thursday at a pool.
“I don’t even understand things,” Ms Kessler told the Times. “I don’t even know how to take it all into my brain. It’s like a dream.”
Mr Baker told The Independent that he is receiving the support of the community during this difficult time.
“They’re taking care of all my family, everybody who is part of this. We have stores giving us food and sending all kinds of donations,” he said.
Nescopeck mayor’s daughter, Robin Massina, has also created a GoFundMe to cover funeral costs and aid surviving family members.
Pennsylvania State Police has opened a criminal investigation into the fire. A cause has not been determined.