Pennsylvania Fire Captain Electrocuted in Blaze

Officials said Captain Jim Robeson was killed while trying to help fight the fire.


For the first time in decades, Scranton has lost one of its firefighters. Fire officials confirmed a 25-year veteran of the Scranton Fire Department died while fighting a blaze Sunday morning in Lackawanna County. Officials also said an elderly couple was killed.

Investigators said the fire started at an apartment building on Ash Street around 7:15 a.m. Sunday.

Officials said Captain Jim Robeson was killed while trying to help fight the fire. Robeson was in the bucket of a ladder truck when the bucket came in contact with power lines. Three other firefighters were also injured in the incident but their injuries are not life-threatening.

A black bunting hangs from the fire station on Mulberry Street and a flag flies at half staff.

Newswatch 16 did stories with Captain Jim Robeson over the years. He talked about always knowing the risks of the job.

"Just getting the guts to do it. You know everything's good, but you have that doubt in your mind that something's going to happen," said Captain Robeson back in 2005 during a training drill.

"He was just a wonderful, wonderful person. Great family man. Great husband. Great firefighter," said Chief Tom Davis with the Scranton Fire Department.

Investigators confirm Richard and Maria Fenstermacher were inside their home on Ash Street Sunday morning and did not survive. Crews continued to douse flames. Firefighters Jennifer Hawker and Captain Robeson attacked the blaze from the bucket of their ladder truck. Then, something went terribly wrong.

"We watched the firefighter go up. And he got electrocuted. He fell. It was devastating," remembers Katilyn Geiger, who witnessed the incident.

"I was like. 'Oh my God! I couldn't believe they hit the main power line. ' I got scared," added Dave Hibble who also saw it all happen.

As soon as crews lowered the ladder, they put Captain Robeson onto a stretcher, trying to his save his life. Firefighter Jennifer Hawker along with two others were hurt and taken for treatment. Officials do not think their injuries are life threatening.

As for the 25 year veteran of the Scranton fire department, he was pronounced dead at a hospital.

"PPL did cut the power to the house. He didn't cut the high voltage wires. Maybe there was a communication break between the chief and PPL. But that's to be determined later on," indicated Chief Tom Davis.

Because Scranton lost one of its own, city leaders decided to hand over the investigation to state police to prevent any potential conflict. Officials said it is a typical procedure.

Funeral Information

Visitation for Captain Robeson will be held Tuesday, Jan 8 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Wednesday, Jan. 9 from 3 to 8 p.m. Thomas J. Hughes Funeral Home Inc., 1240 St. Ann's Street, Scranton, Penn.

Funeral services will be Thursday, Jan. 10 at 10 a.m. at the funeral home with Mass of Christian Burial to be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. in St. Patrick's Church, Jackson Street, Scranton, Penn.

Interment will follow at the Cathedral Cemetery.

Republished with permission of WNEP-TV.