By Steve Svetovich
Dunmore fire department lieutenant Eric Shigo didn’t think twice when he risked his life and entered a burning building on Third Street last month to save other lives.
And because of his heroic effort as well as those of the Dunmore and Scranton fire departments, Serenity Session, 3, is alive today.
Her dad, Darkell Session, 24, also survived.
The fire that killed a mother and three of her young children in Dunmore March 9 was ruled accidental and may have been fueled by debris left in another apartment, Lackawnna County District Attorney Mark Powell reported.
Arson was ruled out as a cause of the fire, added Powell in a statement last month. Powell said the fire appeared to have started in the middle room of the vacant apartment on the second floor of 610 Third Street. Ebony Thompson, her fiancé Darkell Session and their four children had recently moved into the apartment one floor above.
Thompson, 26, and the couple’s daughter London Session, 5, and Tiara Session, 2, died in the fire. Their son, Dallas Session, 1, died a day later.
Darkell Session, who jumped out of a second floor window, and Serenity survived.
Investigators from the Dunmore police, Scranton police and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives could not make a conclusive determination of the initial source of heat or what ignited.
Former Dunmore Councilman Paul Nardozzi, a former police officer, praised the Dunmore and Scranton fire departments for their heroic efforts. “Dunmore suffered an unimaginable tragedy with the loss of four innocent people, three who were children,” he said. “If not for the efforts of all the brave and highly trained firefighters from Dunmore, Scranton and surrounding communities, as well as our excellent Dunmore police department, the loss of life would have been worse.
“Lieutenant Eric Shigo from the Dunmore fire department risked all he has in life to enter that third floor inferno and rescue two of those children, one who died a day later but one who survived the blaze. Eric, himself, was trapped and disoriented for a while. Thus, Fireman’s MAYDAY that went out.
“The entire community and myself personally have been acknowledging Eric for his efforts to save lives that would have been lost. We all need to thank these brave firefighters and police officers. God bless the first responders and especially the family with so many lives lost.”
Chris DeNaples is Dunmore borough fire chief. He was also at the scene of the fire.
Shigo, who has 16 years experience as a Dunmore fireman, was extremely humble when interviewed by The Dunmorean.
“Four of us were initially called to the scene of the fire,” he said. “But there were five people to save. Darkell jumped out of a window, but five were inside.
“A total of 12 more firefighters from Dunmore and 10 from Scranton were called to help. Plus we had volunteers. Larry Waters was my driver. Dunmore firemen Jordan Wisniewski and John Rebovich were also first responders.
“When we pulled into the scene the fire was going pretty hard on the second floor and moving up. The exterior steps were the only way up. I ran all the way up. Two of our men pulled the hand line to extinguish.
“I was able to get Serenity, who was semi conscious, and Dallas, who was unconscious, out. I handed Serenity off to Larry Waters to the front porch. He threw the ladder up. The PA and Commonwealth ambulances were there to provide CPR and transported Serenity to Geisinger CMC and Dallas to Moses Taylor. Serenity was treated for smoke inhalation and released the next day. Dallas was transported to the Lehigh Valley Burn Unit, but died a day later.”
The Dunmore community responded quickly and a fund raiser was held at the Fireside Martini Grill in Dunmore March 15.
“Larry Waters and I met Serenity later at the hospital. We met the mom and dad of both Darkell and Ebony at the fund raiser,” said Shigo. “The parents were very appreciative. Serenity was there at the fund raiser too.
“This is the worst fire I was ever involved in as far as fatalities. This one will take a toll emotionally. I only wish I got everybody out.
“It is a feeling that is hard to put into words. It is why I do this job…to save lives.”
Jimmy Reese, a partner with Art and Sara Ware as owners of the Fireside Martini Grill, said the idea for the fund raiser started with the Facebook page, “Dunmore, Greatest Place on Earth.” Members of the Facebook page quickly met with Reese and his partners to arrange the fund raiser.
“We had the venue and wanted to help,” said Reese. “Most of the local businesses got quickly involved with donations. Most restaurants in Dunmore plus some from Mid Valley, Scranton and Moscow made donations. Over 120 trays of pizza were donated. Over $1200 was raised for the family. It was a nice turnout.
“There were 118 gift certificates and baskets donated. Serenity had her eye on a basket with the Easter Bunny. Well, we made sure she won it.
“There is a beautiful picture of Mary Kate Cadden, one of our employees, presenting Serenity with the basket. It was so touching.”