Harold Baker, a volunteer firefighter in Nescopeck, Pa., was in the first fire engine on the scene of a blaze at his family’s home that left 10 dead Friday.
The children who died were 5, 6 and 7 years old, according to the Pennsylvania State Police.
Police said Friday that a criminal investigation was underway, but Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce told the Associated Press that the investigation would not be labeled as criminal unless authorities find that the fire was intentionally set.
Baker, who was on the scene with the Nescopeck Volunteer Fire Co., told the Citizens’ Voice newspaper of Wilkes-Barre that the original address of the reported fire was for a house next door.
But as the firetruck turned onto the street and he saw the flames further down the road, he realized it was his relatives’ home.
“We tried to get into them,” Baker said. “There wasn’t no way we could get into them.”
The family had been hosting a gathering, and his children were visiting their aunt and uncle, Baker said in an interview with WNEP-TV, a local ABC news station.
State police said three adults escaped. The fire completely destroyed the house, officials said.
Neighbor Mike Swank told WNEP he was watching TV when he heard a “pop” and looked outside to discover the flames visible from the front of the house.
“It was almost already totally engulfed,” he said.