The children's ages ranged between 8 months to 7 years. The homeowner who ran the center was also hospitalized after the fire.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on August 19, 2019. It has since been updated.
In a tragic turn of events, a fire at a home daycare center in Pennsylvania took the lives of five children, three of whom were the kids of a volunteer firefighter. The father was attending to another call while the incident took place.
Lawrence Park Township Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Crotty said Luther Jones’ two daughters and a son were killed in the fire at the all-night daycare center, according to LA Times. While all the children haven't been identified the Erie Fire Department said the children's age ranged between 8 months to 7 years. The homeowner who ran the center was also hospitalized after the fire. When the fire took place Jones was at a site where an alarm had malfunctioned, according to Crotty.
The children were sleeping on the upper floor when the fire took place. Four of the five killed were siblings, the older three of whom were the children of Jones, a firefighter with the Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department in neighboring Lawrence Park Township, reported NBC News.
Around 1:15 am on Sunday the report for the fire was placed. Fire was seen coming out of the first-floor window by the time the firefighters arrived, according to KSN News. The daycare center was “a 24 hour 7 days a week childcare service including holidays", according to KSN News.
Jones didn't know that the fire that broke out at night in Erie involved his own children. He didn't even know that the daycare had just one smoke detector. "That kills me the most," he told NBC News. He added that if there were more smoke detectors his children would have had a better chance to survive. "My kids would be here today," he said.
The fire chief of Erie Guy Santone said that that the daycare center was licensed to look after only six children at a time, which prevented them from being inspected by the local fire inspectors. The fire is believed to have started at the first-floor living room, according to LA Times. An overloaded extension cord could be the cause of the fire, according to NBC News.
"There's a loophole there for some reason, and we're going to close this up today," Santone said. According to state code, a childcare center is supposed to have fire detectors on each floor. Each bedroom should have a smoke detector. This house turned to a daycare center had one in the entire house.
The deaths may have been avoided "if there were the proper amount of smoke detectors," Santone said to NBC News, adding, "It only takes five minutes for a whole house to go up."
The daycare center had been in compliance with the state Department of Human Services Office of Child Development and Early Learning policies until December 28, 2018. However, on January 3, 2019, they had found “ashes and cigarette or cigar butts” in “a childcare space, play space or food preparation area.”
The daycare center had responded saying, "I will make sure it will be cleaned up and remain that way,” and the department listed the issue as corrected, according to LA Times. The note also said that “protective receptacle covers shall be placed in electrical outlets accessible to children 5 years of age or younger" and the center manager replied saying, "I turned the outlets so they were closed. I will make sure that they are turned closed when not in use.”