Pennsylvania daycare fire kills 4 siblings and homeowner's child as investigators find only one smoke detector

Investigators said the fire appeared to have started in the living room area on the first floor of Harris Family Daycare


                            Pennsylvania daycare fire kills 4 siblings and homeowner's child as investigators find only one smoke detector

ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA: A fire at a Pennsylvania daycare center killed five children, including four siblings, at around 1:15 am on Sunday, August 11.

Eight people were inside when the blaze broke out at the Harris Family Daycare in the lakeside city of Erie, which is listed by the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership as a "24 hour, 7 days a week childcare service including holidays," according to the Associated Press.

The fire, which was funneling out of every first-floor window when firefighters arrived, ultimately claimed the lives of five children, all of whom were aged between eight months and seven-years-old.

Four of the victims, all siblings, had been staying at the daycare overnight, with their grandmother Valerie Lockett-Slupski confirming that the children had been placed there because their parents were working through that night.  

"So we are all at a loss, trying to figure out how this happened," she was quoted saying.

The fifth child belonged to the homeowner, who burned her lungs as she ran through the fire to get outside. She was flown to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for treatment and is said to be in stable condition.

Harris Family Daycare (Source: Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News via AP)

Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone told CNN that four other people were injured at the daycare, including two teenagers who jumped out of a second-floor window onto a porch of a home to escape the flames.

Erie Chief Fire Inspector John Widomski said that the fire appeared to have started in the living room area on the first floor, but did not offer any further details.

Following a December 28, 2018, inspection, the state Department of Human Services Office of Child Development and Early Learning listed the daycare as in compliance with requirements.

A January 3, 2019, inspection note did highlight "ashes and cigarette or cigar butts" in a "childcare space, play space or food preparation area," but the department later listed the issue as corrected. 

Another department note on the same day had recommended "protective receptacle covers shall be placed in electrical outlets accessible to children 5 years of age or younger." That issue was also later listed as corrected. 

While it does not appear to be a case of mismanagement, Santone said they had found only one smoke detector in the building, and that it was located it in the attic.

"If there were the proper amount of smoke detectors in this structure, then most, if not all, would have survived," he said.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation as of Sunday afternoon, with two fire inspectors from the Erie Fire Department and three Erie Police detectives trained in fire investigations working to determine the cause of the blaze.

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