Pennsylvania child care centre fire kills 5 children: police

Authorities say an early morning fire in Pennsylvania claimed the lives of five children and sent another person to the hospital.

Erie Police Department said the victims died at about 1:15 a.m. Sunday

Paul Laughlin, 57, places stuffed animals outside a home where a daycare was located in Erie, Pa. Police said a fire at the home claimed the lives of 5 children. (Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News/The Associated Press)

An early morning fire in Pennsylvania at a residential building housing a daycare centre killed five children and sent the owner to the hospital, authorities said.

The fire was reported in Erie, a northwest lake town, at about 1:15 a.m. Sunday, Chief Guy Santone of the Erie Fire Department said.

The victims ranged in ages from eight months to seven years, Santone said. The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership lists a day care at the fire address.

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

"So we are all at a loss, trying to figure out how this happened," Lockett-Slupski told the newspaper.

The owner of the daycare was flown to UPMC Mercy for treatment, Santone said. He said a neighbour was also injured.

Chief Fire Inspector John 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.

Erie Bureau of Fire Inspector Mark Polanski helps investigate the fatal fire at 1248 West 11th St. in Erie. The Erie Times-News reported that a woman sent to hospital with injuries from the fire is the owner of the daycare. (Greg Wohlford/The Associated Press)

The chamber site lists the Harris Family Daycare at that address as "a 24 hour, 7 days a week child care service including holidays. We provide transportation and teach kids age appropriate skills."

The state Department of Human Services Office of Child Development and Early Learning listed the daycare as in compliance with requirements following a Dec. 28, 2018, inspection.

But a Jan. 3 inspection noted "protective receptacle covers shall be placed in electrical outlets accessible to children five years of age or younger" and said the provider's planned correction was to turn "the outlets so they were closed" when not in use.

The inspection also noted the presence of "ashes and cigarette or cigar butts" banned in child care space, play space or food preparation area, and said the provider had promised to "make sure it will be cleaned up and remain that way."

Both issues were marked as being corrected.