A Pennsylvania home child care centre where a fire killed five children did not have sufficient smoke detectors, the fire chief said Tuesday.
There was one sensor in the attic of the Harris Family Daycare at the lakeside town of Erie, Fire Chief Guy Santone told a news conference Tuesday. It wasn’t clear whether there were any others in the house.
State officials who inspect house healthcare centers don’t check for smoke detectors, the state Department of Human Services confirmed. It’s from the purview, spokeswoman Ali Fogarty stated.
But state and city governments are working on legislation that could alter that.
Fire officials suspect the blaze that broke out Sunday morning was accidental, according to Santone. They are exploring whether it was electric. Extension cords and other wiring have been sent to experts for evaluation.
An adult and two teenaged boys could escape the fire. Five children died.
The children are identified as siblings La’Myhia Jones, 8; Luther Jones, 6; Ava Jones, 4; and Jayden Augustiniak, 9 months, according to the Erie coroner’s office. The fifth child who died in the fire was identified as 2-year-old Dalvin Pacley. The tentative cause of death of five kids is carbon monoxide toxicity and smoke inhalation.
Toxicology test results will take a few weeks to process, said coroner Lyell P. Cook.
Three of the young people killed were the kids of a volunteer firefighter, Luther Jones, based on Lawrence Park Township Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Crotty.
Their mom, Shevona Overton, who is also the mother of a fourth child murdered, has told WICU she had “lost a piece of me that can never be replaced.”
There are approximately 40 house day care centres in Erie which are registered with the state and subject to annual inspections, Santone stated. The home visits mostly consist of childproofing, he said, but these inspections do not check for fire safety.
State Sen. Daniel Laughlin said he intends 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 explained.
The department is dedicated to amending its present regulations, Fogarty said.
“We’re going to close that gap,” Santone said. “This is unacceptable. This just can’t go on any more like this.”
The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership lists the Harris Family Daycare as “a 24 hour, 7 days a week childcare service including holidays.”