EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The investigation into a fire that led to the deaths of two firefighters in Schuylkill County is moving forward Friday night at the same time a community is mourning the tragic loss.
The fire happened in West Penn Township, Wednesday afternoon.
The loss of the two firefighters has really touched the entire region. People want answers as to what exactly happened, but they also grieve for two men they call heroes.
Firefighter gear is placed in front of the New Tripoli Volunteer Fire Department in Lehigh County Friday. It honors 36-year-old Assistant Fire Chief Zachary Paris and firefighter, 59-year-old, Marvin Gruber.
They were among dozens of firefighters who responded to battle an intense fire, Wednesday afternoon at a home on Clamtown Road in West Penn Township. The two became trapped and a mayday alert was sent out. They were rescued but later died at the hospital.
On Thursday, they returned to the Lehigh Valley, their hearses escorted by first responders from all across the region. Among the fire departments in the escort procession, was the McAdoo Fire Department.
“When one of us is gone. It takes a piece out of all of us. That night I sat there and listened to that whole incident. Just listening to it, had my gut wrenching, I had tears in my eyes,” said Chief Bob Leshko of the McAdoo Fire Department.
Mcadoo Fire Chief Bob Leshko has been a first responder for most of his life. He says they are all part of a special family.
“When any one of us as first responders something happens we’re there to back them and their families because that’s what we do,” said Chief Leshko.
Chief Leshko says when the call for help comes in, they don’t think twice about answering those calls.
“Those guys left their homes. You know just like any one of us would have been sitting home that night. I was sitting at home if we were called we would have went. It’s a point you’re sitting at home, the pager goes off, something you don’t even know. Your family gets so in tune to it that you don’t kiss that loved one goodbye because all of us truly believe we are coming back. But we also know we may not,” added Chief Lesko.
West Penn Township Police Chief James Bonner says tragedies like this remind first responders how perilous their jobs really are.
“Something like this hits home, makes us all go home look at our families realize today could be my day,” explained Chief Bonner.
And we heard the same heartfelt comments from other first responders across the area.
Police are also investigating the death of Christopher Kammerdiener, whose body was found at the rear of the property. Investigators say he lived at the home. Late Friday, West Penn Township Police issued a statement saying the investigation is ongoing and that there would be no new information released about the investigation.