Police: 2 firefighters die in house fire; body found outside

TAMAQUA, Pa. (AP) — Two firefighters died responding to a house fire Wednesday in rural eastern Pennsylvania where a man’s body was found outside, state police said.

The New Tripoli Fire Company members who lost their lives were identified as Assistant Fire Chief Zachary Paris, 36, and Marvin Gruber, 59, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper David Beohm said.

The body of another person was discovered Wednesday on the large plot of land surrounding the home in West Penn Township near Tamaqua, a small coal-region town about 85 miles (137 kilometers) from Philadelphia.

He was identified Thursday as Christopher Kammerdiener, 35, according to Deputy Coroner Michael Bowman, who said Kammerdiener lived at the house that caught fire.

Officials did not release further details on the investigation of Kammerdiener’s death.

Don Smith, Jr., a spokesperson for the Lehigh County Communications Center, said at a news conference Thursday that the two firefighters became trapped while trying to put out the blaze, and that other firefighters worked quickly to try to rescue them. They were rushed to the hospital, where they died, Smith said.

Officials said the 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 in Frederick County, Maryland. He joined the county’s fire department as a recruit in February and had just 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. He said two other firefighters were treated for injuries.

They said more than 100 firefighters and officers responded shortly before 4 p.m., and Bonner called it an active crime scene. He said Pennsylvania State Police and the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisting the investigation.

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Trooper David Beohm’s last name in a second reference.

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