Deaths of Harrisburg firefighter, girl in blaze mourned

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP/ WHTM) — A Pennsylvania fire official who was wounded in a crash while responding to fire that killed a young girl has died of his injuries, authorities said.

Lt. Dennis DeVoe, a 21-year veteran, died Saturday “surrounded by his family and close friends,” said Harrisburg Fire Chief Brian Enterline, who called him “a leader in our department and the fire service as a whole.”

“His passion for the fire service made each of us strive to be better in all we do,” Enterline said. “Our hearts are broken and we grieve for the loss of our brother.”

Gov. Tom Wolf on Sunday ordered flags to be flown at half-staff to honor DeVoe. The governor said flags would remain at half-staff at the Capitol Complex until DeVoe’s interment.

DeVoe, who like many other city firefighters had just attended the funeral of a retired firefighter, was on his way to the station to pick up his gear before heading to the scene when his vehicle was hit in an intersection, Enterline said.

Police allege that a vehicle that had been reported stolen went through a stop sign and struck DeVoe’s vehicle on the passenger side, and the female driver was seen fleeing. Later, Khanyae Kendall, 18, went to Harrisburg hospital and officers met with her to take an accident report. Police allege that she provided false information about where and how the accident happened and also showed signs of impairment during a field sobriety test.

Kendall was charged with aggravated assault by motor vehicle while driving under the influence, receiving stolen property and other offenses. Court documents don’t list a defense attorney who could respond to the charges and a listed phone number for her couldn’t be found Sunday.

A month ago, DeVoe was one of two firefighters who pulled a man from a burning house, and afterward called it just another day on the job, PennLive.com reported.

“It’s what we signed up for,” said DeVoe, a husband and father of four children. “I’d want someone to do that if it were one of my family members.”

The Friday night fire he was heading toward, ruled accidental and attributed to a hoverboard plugged in to recharge, claimed the life of Ashanti Hughes, 3, on Saturday, according to the Lehigh County coroner’s office. Two other children were flown to the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest burn center. A man and a teenage youth were treated and released.

Neighbor Crystal Benjamin recalled seeing the row home engulfed in wind-whipped flames and hearing people yelling, “The kids are in the house.” She remembered one girl jumping from the second-story roof and another girl climbing out onto the same roof and stuck there, not knowing where to go, until she was rescued by firefighters.

“Just seeing the little girl on the roof, not knowing how to get away,” Benjamin said, breaking off as she broke into tears, PennLive.com reported.

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