Five children die in care center blaze

World | 13 Aug 2019

A Pennsylvania care center where children could stay overnight if their parents worked was ravaged by a fire that killed five youngsters.

The victims in the lakeside city of Erie ranged in ages from eight months to seven years.

All of them had been staying at the residential house that had been converted into a care center, Erie chief fire inspector John Widomski said.

The fire, reported at about 1.15am on Sunday, was funneling from every first-floor window when firefighters arrived, he added.

Valerie Lockett-Slupski, standing across the street, told the Erie Times-News she was the grandmother of four of the children.

They were staying at the Harris Family Daycare center - listed as a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week facility - as their parents were working overnight, she said. The family had two boys and two girls. They had been going to the center for almost a year.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services Office of Child Development and Early Learning listed the facility as complying with requirements following a December 28, 2018, inspection.

But a January 3 inspection follow-up note on that listing highlighted the fact ash and cigarette or cigar butts had been found in care space, play space and a food preparation area.

Widomski revealed that that the fire appeared to have started in a living room area on the first floor.

Erie fire chief Guy Santone said the owner of the center was admitted to hospital in a stable condition. A neighbor was also injured.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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