5 chil­dren killed in fire at Penn­syl­va­nia day care cen­ter

The Saline Courier - - NEWS -

ERIE, Pa. — A day care cen­ter where chil­dren could stay overnight as their par­ents worked was rav­aged Sun­day by a fire that killed five and sent the owner to the hospi­tal, au­thor­i­ties said.

The vic­tims in the lake­side city of Erie, Pennsly­va­nia, ranged in age from 8 months to 7 years, Chief Guy San­tone of the Erie Fire De­part­ment said.

At least four of the vic­tims were stay­ing overnight at the res­i­den­tial house that had been turned into a day care cen­ter, Erie Chief Fire In­spec­tor John Widom­ski told the Erie Times-news.

The fire, re­ported at about 1:15 a.m. Sun­day, was fun­nel­ing out of ev­ery first-floor win­dow when fire­fight­ers ar­rived, Widom­ski said.

Va­lerie Lock­ett-slup­ski, stand­ing across the street from the fire-dam­aged house, told the news­pa­per she was the grand­mother of four of the chil­dren, and that they were stay­ing at the day care cen­ter be­cause their par­ents were work­ing overnight. She said the fam­ily had two boys and two girls and had used the cen­ter for al­most a year.

“So we are all at a loss, try­ing to fig­ure out how this hap­pened,” Lock­ett-slup­ski said.

The cause of the fire re­mained un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion Sun­day af­ter­noon, Widom­ski told the news­pa­per.

The Erie Re­gional Cham­ber and Growth Part­ner­ship lists the Har­ris Fam­ily Day­care as “a 24 hour, 7 days a week child­care ser­vice in­clud­ing hol­i­days.”

The state De­part­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices Of­fice of Child Devel­op­ment and Early Learn­ing listed the day care as in com­pli­ance with re­quire­ments fol­low­ing a Dec. 28, 2018, in­spec­tion. But a Jan. 3, 2019, in­spec­tion note on that list­ing high­lighted “ashes and cig­a­rette or cigar butts” in “a child care space, play space or food prepa­ra­tion area.”

The day care cen­ter’s re­sponse to the note reads, “I will make sure it will be cleaned up and re­main that way,” and the de­part­ment listed the is­sue as cor­rected.

An­other de­part­ment note from the same date reads “pro­tec­tive re­cep­ta­cle cov­ers shall be placed in elec­tri­cal out­lets ac­ces­si­ble to chil­dren 5 years of age or younger,” to which the day care’s re­sponse was, “I turned the out­lets so they were closed. I will make sure that they are turned closed when not in use.”

That is­sue was also listed as be­ing cor­rected.

Widom­ski told the news­pa­per that the fire ap­peared to have started in the liv­ing room area on the first floor. The de­part­ment’s two fire in­spec­tors and three Erie po­lice de­tec­tives trained in fire in­ves­ti­ga­tions are work­ing to de­ter­mine the cause of the blaze.

The owner of the cen­ter was flown to UPMC Mercy for treat­ment, San­tone said.

Erie po­lice de­tec­tives said the owner was in sta­ble con­di­tion, the news­pa­per re­ported.

San­tone said a neigh­bor was also in­jured.

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