The blaze broke out around 11:55 p.m. Sunday at the single-family home in Pottsville, which sits on a steep hillside not far from the D.G. Yuengling & Son brewery. Firefighters later found the bodies inside the building, according to Schuylkill County emergency dispatch supervisor Bill Lindenmuth. The names and ages of the victims weren’t released and the causes of death weren’t immediately known.
A fire marshal was sifting through the debris Monday and authorities were searching for the cause. The fire was declared under control shortly before 1 a.m. A Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal was at the scene Monday morning investigating the cause.
Neighbors said they heard screams for help, but the flames were too intense by the time they got to the house to try to rescue the family.
Jeff Kuhlwind, 50, who lives across the street, said he was on his computer in the front of his house when he heard screaming, “Help! Help me!”
He said he called 911, ran outside and saw “massive flames” shooting from a second-floor window. He saw the children’s mother run down some steps alongside the house screaming for help, saying that a man and kids were still inside.
The woman turned around as if to go back inside, but Kuhlwind said he ordered her to stay out. He and several other neighbors ran up to the front of the house and he was about to go inside when he saw flames shooting outside the front window and was forced away.
“Nobody was getting in, there wasn’t no way,” he said. “It went quick, really, really quick.”
The upper two floors of the three-story home were charred and the rear of the building appeared to have sustained heavy damage, with several of the walls knocked out. Furniture and other debris sat on the front lawn.
Crews from all the city’s fire companies responded to the blaze and Pottsville fire Chief Todd March said crews had to proceed carefully through the building because of the extensive amount of damage.
Pottsville is in Pennsylvania’s coal country, about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Messages left with a state police investigator and the coroner’s office weren’t immediately returned.