There weren’t enough working smoke detectors at a Pennsylvania home daycare where a fire killed five children over the weekend, the fire chief for the city of Erie said Tuesday.
There was one detector in the attic of the Harris Family Daycare, Guy Santone told a news conference. It was not clear whether there were others in the home.
State officials who inspect home daycare centres do not check for smoke detectors, Santone said. But city and state authorities are working on legislation that would make home daycare centres register with the city, so it can deploy inspectors.
Fire officials suspect the blaze that broke out Sunday morning was accidental, Santone said. They are investigating whether it was an electrical fire. Extension cords and other wiring have been sent to experts for examination.
An adult and two adolescent boys were able to escape the fire.
3 victims were firefighter’s children
The children have been identified as siblings La’Myhia Jones, 8; Luther Jones, 6; Ava Jones, 4; and Jayden Augustiniak, nine months, according to the Erie coroner’s office. The fifth child who died in the fire has been identified as two-year-old Dalvin Pacley.
The tentative cause of death of all five children is carbon monoxide toxicity and smoke inhalation. Toxicology test results will take a few weeks to process, said coroner Lyell P. Cook.
Three of those killed were the children of a volunteer firefighter, Luther Jones, according to Lawrence Park Township volunteer fire Chief Joe Crotty.
Their mother, Shevona Overton, who is also the mother of a fourth child killed, has told WICU TV that she had “lost a piece of me that can never be replaced.”
This is unacceptable. This just can’t go on any more like this.— Guy Santone, Erie fire chief
Santone said there are about 40 home daycare centres in Erie that are registered with the state and subject to annual inspections. He said the home visits mostly include child-proofing, but those inspections don’t check for fire safety.
He is talking with state legislators and other officials to draft legislation that would require these types of facilities to also register with the city as well as the state, and for smoke detectors to be inspected.
Ali Fogarty, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services, says the department does not regulate smoke detectors in state-licensed home daycare facilities.
“We’re going to close that gap,” Santone said. “This is unacceptable. This just can’t go on any more like this.”