Pennsylvania Firefighter Dies in Fire at his Home

Scott Wettlaufer, 23, died from breathing in too much smoke.


The Lycoming County coroner has released the name of a volunteer firefighter and EMT who was found dead this morning after a fire at his home.

Scott Wettlaufer, 23, died from breathing in too much smoke. Late Wednesday night, investigators said the fire started in the living room of the mobile home, but they may never know what started the deadly fire.

Emergency crews fighting the fire found out not long after arriving that the victim was one of their own.

The flames started at around 8 a.m. near Cogan Station.

There's little left of that mobile home. The place was gutted by the flames. Inside firefighters found their friend.

Wettlaufer was a part of the Hepburn Township Volunteer Fire Department for years. It was hard for fellow firefighters knowing there was no way to save him.

"Situations like this make it hard for everyone when you lose one of your own," said Sergeant Joseph Hope of the Old Lycoming Township Police Department. "Some people feel they should have got in there quicker, but there was no way, couldn't get in there. There was no way. They feel bad about that."

Flames left only a shell of the mobile home near Cogan Station. Firefighters could do little to stop the fire from spreading. There was little chance of saving their friend and colleague.

"It was quite heavy involvement when police units arrived with fire departments shortly behind. It's like most trailer fires, tend to burn rapidly," add Sergeant Hope.

The department chaplain will now have to console rescuers. It won't be easy for them to forget this fire fight. "Dad was trying to get in. We had to hold him back. You can just imagine. It was awful," the chaplain said.

"I got up and saw smoke going over my trailer. I went outside and saw flames and smoke coming out of the trailer," said neighbor Samuel Wadrell.

He ran over to the burning mobile home, turned off the gas outside and pulled some fuses. Another man helped too.

A passerby was actually going south on Old Lycoming Road, saw the smoke and came over and tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher but it was too heavily involved at that time.

Firefighters said flames started in the front of the mobile home. The body was found in the back, just a few feet from a door. Rescuers believe the man had already been overcome by the time they got there.

Family members said as they stood and watched the home burn they hoped their loved one had gone to work. Then came the discovery inside.

"It appears he may have been trying to get out or maybe check on the welfare of the rest of his family before exiting," said Lycoming County Coroner Chuck Kiesling.

Hepburn Township volunteer firefighters on the scene had to deal with the fact their friend didn't get out, that the flames were just too much. Investigators were left digging for a cause, knowing who lost his life.

"When it's one of our own it makes it so difficult. It's hard for them, for the firefighters here but we're just going to work through it," Kiesling added.

Neighbor Amber Shultz will miss a smiling face from her neighborhood. She said looking at all the damage was surreal. "He was just always happy, never in a bad mood. he was always making fun of someone. I don't know how to explain it. He was just a happy person," Shultz said.

Wettlaufer was on suspension from the fire department. He was accused of stealing a laptop computer and cell phone from the department. His preliminary hearing on the charges was schuduled this afternoon.

Despite that, his fellow firefighters said the fire department was Wettlaufer's life.

Republished with permission from WNEP-TV