Fatal Fire Leads to Enhanced Inspections at Day Care Centers
Nearly one month after a fire ripped through the Harris Family Daycare, claiming the lives of five children, a change in policy will help prevent future tragedies.
Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller is now working with elected leaders to enhance fire safety at all child care facilities in Pennsylvania.
"We continue to mourn with the Erie community and the families who lost their children,” said Miller. "While we can never replace the precious lives lost that day, we can decide as a community and a Commonwealth to proactively pursue changes that might prevent future tragedies.”
The fire investigation revealed the day care only had one smoke detector in the attic.
However, under the law, the DHS---which regulates day care facilities---can’t cite a child care facility for a lack of smoke detectors.
"Historically, for whatever reason, looking for operable smoke detectors and fire extinguishers has not been part of our regulation,” said Miller. “Unfortunately, it took a tragedy like this to see that, but that's why we are here and we looked at that and said more can be done, so that’s why we are making the changes.”
Starting Monday, the agency will require every facility to have operable smoke detectors on each floor.
“This tragedy made clear the DHS, as the department primarily responsible for the regulation of child care facilities, should also be evaluating facilities for the presence of operable smoke detectors and fire extinguishers as well.” said Miller.
Since the fire, investigators have pinpointed nearly 40 day care centers throughout the city.
Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone says his department has already begun helping these facilities get back up to code.
"We had our fire inspectors go out there and give them free inspections and let them know what they need or don't need,” said Chief Santone. “We’re trying to get through them as quickly as we can.”
As for the investigation, the Erie Fire Department is still waiting on the results on some of the evidence they sent out for testing.
As of right now, the exact cause of the fire remains unknown.