Five Children Dead Following Fire at Erie Home that Operated as a Daycare
Five children have died, and a woman was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital after an early morning fire at a home that operated as a daycare on Erie's west side.
The fire with reports of multiple people trapped inside a home at 1248 W. 11th St. was called in around 1:11 a.m. Sunday.
According to Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone, as many as eight people were trapped in the burning home, including five children, two teens and Elaine Harris the woman who operated a 24 hour daycare there.
Neighbors a block away heard the screams of teens who had escaped as far as a second floor porch roof. They indicated there were babies still trapped inside. The teens on the roof, believed to be ages 12 and 15, were helped down by neighbors.
One neighbor tried to enter the first floor but was driven back by the flames, smoke and heat.
Firefighters pulled the five children from the burning house. First responders were doing chest compressions and trying to revive the children as they were taken from the scene on stretchers, but none of them survived. They ranged in age from eight months to eight years.
Elaine Harris apparently suffered burns from smoke inhalation. She was taken by medical helicopter from UPMC Hamot Trauma Center to Mercy Hospital Burn Unit in Pittsburgh.
Santone said investigators suspect an electrical overload may have sparked the fire. The chief said there were many electrical cords under a living room couch, with many things plugged into them. An electrical engineer is expected to assist investigators at the scene on Monday before they make a final determination on a fire cause.
The fire chief also said there was only one smoke detector in the home. "Only one, in the attic and that did absolutely no good," Santone said, adding, "we could have prevented a tragedy if there were smoke detectors in the building."
Harris Family Daycare was licensed to operate from the home. It was last inspected on Dec. 28, 2018 for renewal purposes and found to be compliant; no fire safety concerns were noted.
Community members have turned out to share their love and support to those affected by the tragedy. A memorial has formed in front of the home.
The chief said this type of scenario with small children is especially hard on firefighters, but resources are available to help if they want to talk. Some have already met with counselors from Safe Harbor Behavioral Health.
Chief Santone said, "The Erie fire department sends their condolences to the families, we wish we could have done more, we did everything we could it just didn't have the outcome we had hoped for."
Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper issued the following statement Sunday regarding the fire:
"Our hearts go out to the loved ones who lost someone in this terrible fire. Our thoughts are also with the first responders – the 911 call-takers, the EMTs, the firefighters and the police officers. Erie is a tight-knit community in so many ways, and I know we will rally to support the families of all those involved. I ask my fellow citizens to join me in praying for those dealing with this horrible tragedy."