Daycare Wasn't Inspected for Smoke Detectors Due to Loopholes in Regulations; City, Senator Seek Change
The City of Erie and State Sen. Dan Laughlin are preparing to take action to close loopholes that prevented the daycare where fire claimed the lives of five children Sunday from being inspected by state or local authorities for smoke detectors.
Sen. Laughlin said he started drafting legislation Monday that would require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to look for detectors during their annual inspections.
"The current regulations do not allow for citing a child care facility for compliance with fire safety codes including the presence and functionality of smoke detectors," according to an email from DHS.
Only one fire detector was found in the attic of Harris Family Daycare where Sunday's fatal fire happened.
Pennsylvania state code requires child care facilities run out of a home to have "a smoke detector on each floor and in the basement."
Laughlin said the legislation is designed to be simple, rather than costly or a burden.
Harris Family Daycare also was not registered with the city government. Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone said a "loophole" in regulations meant any child care facility founded before 2004 only had to register with the state. City officials are considering an ordinance to address that.
"When they (state officials) do their inspections, they don't inspect for smoke detectors. They don't inspect for fire extinguishers. They inspect for things like cleanliness, make sure that there's nothing laying around that a child can choke on, things of that nature," said Santone. "That has to stop."
He said the city inspects for smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
The city has already requested a list of addresses of family daycares located in Erie from DHS. Santone said there appears to be about 40 in the city.
Sunday's fire was reported around 1:15 a.m. at 1248 W. 11 St. in the City of Erie, the address of Harris Family Daycare.
All of the city's available firefighters were called to fight the flames, which were found shooting from the front window.
The homeowner and two teenage kids escaped, but five children were still trapped inside. Firefighters rushed in to rescue the children, which ranged from eight months to eight years in age. The children were all in critical condition. Some were in cardiac arrest.
Police, who also came to the scene, even helped perform CPR on the victims, assisted firefighters with ladders and hoses, and re-positioned ambulances. Police and firefighters even drove an ambulance to the hospital as paramedics worked to save the lives of the children.
Investigators with the Erie Police and Fire Departments, as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), have been looking into the cause of the fire. The fire originated by a couch in a first-floor living room and appears to be accidental due to an overloaded electrical cord, Santone said. The electrical cords have been sent out to be examined by an expert.
The Erie County Coroner said the victims appear to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation. Their remains were released to the funeral home Tuesday afternoon.
La’Myhia Jones, 8; Luther Jones Jr., 6; Ava Jones, 4; and Jaydan Augustyniak, 9 months, will be remembered in a funeral service at the Bayfront Convention Center on Saturday. Viewing will be from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. with the funeral service beginning at noon.
There is no word on the funeral services for Dalvin Pacley, 2. He was remembered during a vigil Tuesday evening at the site of the fire.
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