TAMAQUA, Pa. (AP) — Two firefighters died responding to a house fire at which a body was found outside, but two people who lived in the home got out safely, Pennsylvania State Police said.
The firefighters who died Wednesday were identified as members of the New Tripoli Fire Company, Assistant Fire Chief Zachary Paris, 36, and Marvin Gruber, 59, Trooper David Beohm said.
The body of another person was discovered outside the house on the property, which sits on a large plot of land in West Penn Township near Tamaqua in Schuylkill County.
“We have a body in the back, and that’s all still part of this whole investigation,” Beohm said.
At a news conference Thursday, Don Smith, Jr., a spokesperson for the Lehigh County Communications Center, said that the two firefighters became trapped while trying to put out the blaze, and that other firefighters worked quickly to get them out. They were rushed to the hospital, where they died, Smith said.
Officials said causes of death and details of funeral arrangements would be released at a later date.
Paris lived and volunteered in New Tripoli but worked as a professional firefighter at Frederick County, Maryland, Fire and Rescue Services. He joined the Frederick County department as a recruit in February and graduated from the fire academy in September.
Survivors include his wife, two daughters, a sister and his parents.
“There are no words to describe the sadness myself and the members of Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services are feeling today,” said Fire Chief Tom Coe. “Not only was Zach someone who was living out his dream of becoming a career firefighter, but he was also living out his dream as a family man.”
Gruber worked at Northampton Community College for 22 years, the last 15 in the Department of Public Safety.
“He died a hero in the line of duty, doing what he did best, helping and protecting others while selflessly serving his community with honor and integrity,” said Keith Morris, the school’s public safety chief.
West Penn Township Police Chief James Bonner said two other people — “an uncle and nephew” — lived in the three-story single-family home and were able to escape the fire. He said two other firefighters were treated for injuries.
Officials did not release details Thursday related to the investigation of the dead body on the property, including an identity or a cause of death.
They said more than 100 firefighters and officers responded shortly before 4 p.m. Bonner called it an active crime scene, with Pennsylvania State Police and the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisting the investigation.