Not enough smoke detectors in Pennsylvania day care where 5 children died, officials say

Olivia Sanchez

A three-story house that caught fire in Pennsylvania killing five children did not have enough working smoke detectors, according to local fire officials.

Investigators found only one smoke detector in the aftermath of a fire where four of the five victims were siblings, according to Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone.

State officials who inspect home child care centers do not check for smoke detectors, the state Department of Human Services confirmed. It’s out of their purview, spokeswoman Ali Fogarty said.

Home day care centers are subject to yearly inspections that mostly involve child proofing, but don't check on fire safety, according to Santone.

“We’re going to close that gap,” Santone said. “This is unacceptable. This just can’t go on any more like this.”

Sen. Daniel Laughlin (R-PA) said he plans to introduce a bill that would require the Department of Human Services to “include the inspection of all smoke detectors in their annual inspection of child care facilities,” he said.

The National Fire Protection Association says that smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on every story of a home, and should be interconnected so that if one detects smoke, all the alarms go off.

More: At least five children dead in Erie blaze, authorities say

The Harris Family Daycare, which was operated out of a three-story, single-family home, should have had at least eight working smoke detectors, according to NFPA safety standards.

In thIs photo released by the Erie Fire department, firefighters work to put out a house fire in Erie, Pennsylvania early in the morning on August 11, 2019. - Five children died, and a mother that was injured was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital after an early morning fire in West Erie. (Photo by Scooter Blakely / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT

Large homes may need extra smoke detectors, according to the NFPA website, because closed doors may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire.

“We would like to offer our deepest sympathies to all affected by the tragic fire on West 11th Street, it is simply an unbearable loss for the families and for our community,” the Erie Fire Department said in a statement. “This tragedy will linger in the memory of all involved for the rest of their lives, we can only hope that the community can someday heal.”

The fire was believed to have started on the first floor of the house, and reportedly blew smoke out all the first floor windows.

Fire officials believe the blaze that broke out Sunday morning was accidental, and are investigating whether it may have been electrical.

The one smoke detector that was found in the house was in the attic, according to Santone. It was reported around 1:15 a.m. on Sunday, when a neighbor, Danika Scott, saw flames, and heard a scream.

“That fire was just nuts ... nuts,” Scott said.

More: 'My babies are gone': 4 of 5 children killed in Pennsylvania day care fire were siblings

Paul Laughlin, 57, places stuffed animals on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019 outside a home at 1248 West 11th St. in Erie, Pa., where multiple people died in an early-morning fire. (Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News via AP) ORG XMIT: PAERI102

"I'm just so hurt my babies are gone," the children's mother, Shevona Overton, told Erie News Now. "I love them dearly. I just hurt inside knowing that my kids were fighting and hurting in that fire. Every minute, I feel the same pain."

Overton identified the children, two boys and two girls, as La’Myhia Jones, 8; Luther Jones Jr., 6; Ava Jones, 4; and Jaydan Augustyniak, 9 months.

The fifth victim was two-year-old Dalvin Pacley, according to the Erie Times-News.

The tentative cause of death of all five children is carbon monoxide toxicity and smoke inhalation, but toxicology tests could take a few weeks to process, according to coroner Lyell P. Cook.

An adult and two teenage boys survived the fire. The children who died ranged in age from 8 months to 7 years old.

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pennsylvania daycare that caught fire did not have enough smoke detectors