Pottsville Fatal Fire Tough on Police, Firefighters, Neighbors

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POTTSVILLEĀ -- Just before midnight, neighbors saw flames pouring out the windows of a three-story home on Pierce Street in Pottsville.

Police arrived in three minutes.

Firefighters arrived in less than five.

"We knew right off the bat that we had people trapped in the building," said Pottsville Fire Chief Todd March.

Those trapped inside the building were all from the same family:

30-year-old Eric Brown.

Eric's sister-in-law Kristina Thomas.

Joy Brown, 8.

Jeremiah Brown, 7.

Emily Brown, 3.

Elijah Brown 2.

Eric`s wife Kelly, the children`s mother, was across the street doing laundry at a friend`s house.

The Browns' next door neighbors say they heard Kelly scream.

Then they saw a police officer do everything he could to get inside.

"It was scary," said Jason Rose. "It was really, he was choking and he still went into the smoke."

"Police tried so hard," added Jason's girlfriend Samantha Fanelli "It was so on fire before anyone even got here."

Hours after the fire was out, the thin building remains an empty shell.

But firefighters say they`ll remember flames pouring out the third floor windows, while they were standing on the street, unable to do anything to save the people inside.

"It's just beginning to hit me," said an emotionally drained Fire Chief Todd March, who calls this the toughest tragedy he`s experienced in 37 years as a firefighter.

He worries about the younger colleagues who`ve never experienced something like this.

"They found a couple of bodies inside," added the chief. "We just let only a certain amount of guys in there and we said, hey nobody else is going in.

We don`t want to expose them to that. It`s a sad situation."

Monday night, the Schuylkill County coroner was scheduled to begin the task of doing autopsies on the victims of the Pierce Street fire,.

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