Closed Door Saved a Child's Life in East 13th House Fire
Erie fire and police investigators are looking for the exact cause of a destructive weekend house fire at 444 East 13th Street.
It was a destructive smoky fire that broke out Saturday morning when fire officials say children ages 9, 5 and 3 were left home alone.
They know the fire started at the back of the home, now fire investigators with the assistance of Erie Police detectives are working to piece together exactly how it started.
Deputy Chief Rick Lorah, Criminal Investigation Division updated us on the probe. "So we had our arson investigator along with a detective from the major crimes unit, they were deployed to the scene and they're doing the follow-up investigation into the cause of the fire as we speak."
Fire investigators say the 5 and 9 year old children were found outside after the fire started, but the 3 year old was trapped in a closed upstairs bedroom -- and something they preach everyday, "close before you doze" may have saved the child's life.
With fire department photos taken before the heavily damaged home was demolished for the safety of the neighborhood, Chief Erie Fire Inspector Darren Hart showed us the difference between the heavily charred interior of most of the home, and the pristine condition of the bedroom where the 3-year-old was found unresponsive and then revived by quick medical attention.
Hart credited Engine 13's crew for a textbook response and rescue, but said it was the closed door that helped save the child's life. "A hollow core door, which you would think would burn up in no time, saved the day," Hart said, "that tells the tale of this whole fire - that that door saved the day -if it would have been open, it would have been a whole different story."
The dangerous circumstances caused by the fire is why police investigators want answers as to who is responsible. "This is a potentially scary and life altering situation for everyone involved," Deputy Chief Lorah said, "so we're going to investigate this and we're going to take a look at anyone that we believe is at fault
accidental or on purpose."
If the investigation finds that the children are at fault, because they are under age 10, they are too young to face charges. Whether adults will be culpable for the fire disaster will be a decision made when the police and fire investigation is complete. The findings of the probe will be turned over to Erie County District Attorney Beth Hirz for review.