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Firefighter was dad to 3 of 5 kids killed in Pennsylvania day care blaze

Paul Laughlin, 57, places stuffed animals on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019 outside a home at 1248 West 11th St. in Erie, Pa., where multiple people died in an early-morning fire. Photo: AP/ Greg Wohlford, Erie Times-News
Paul Laughlin, 57, places stuffed animals on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019 outside a home at 1248 West 11th St. in Erie, Pa., where multiple people died in an early-morning fire.

Updated: August 12, 2019 10:16 AM

Officials say a volunteer firefighter was the father of three of five children who died in a blaze at an all-night child care center in Pennsylvania.

Lawrence Park Township Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Crotty says Luther Jones' two daughters and a son were killed in the fire.

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The children haven't been formally identified, but the Erie Fire Department says the dead range in age from 8 months to 7 years. The owner was hospitalized after the fire Sunday.

Crotty says at the time of the blaze Jones had responded to another call for what turned out to be a malfunctioning alarm.

The fire, reported at about 1:15 a.m. Sunday, was funneling out of every first-floor window when firefighters arrived, Widomski said.

Police: Pennsylvania day care center fire kills 5 children

Valerie Lockett-Slupski, standing across the street from the fire-damaged house, told the newspaper she was the grandmother of four of the children, and that they were staying at the day care center because their parents were working overnight. She said the family had two boys and two girls and had used the center for almost a year.

"So we are all at a loss, trying to figure out how this happened," Lockett-Slupski said.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Sunday afternoon, Widomski told the newspaper.

The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership lists the Harris Family Daycare as "a 24 hour, 7 days a week childcare service including holidays."

The state Department of Human Services Office of Child Development and Early Learning listed the day care as in compliance with requirements following a Dec. 28, 2018, inspection. But a Jan. 3, 2019, inspection note on that listing highlighted "ashes and cigarette or cigar butts" in "a child care space, play space or food preparation area."

The day care center's response to the note reads, "I will make sure it will be cleaned up and remain that way," and the department listed the issue as corrected.

Another department note from the same date reads "protective receptacle covers shall be placed in electrical outlets accessible to children 5 years of age or younger," to which the day care's response was, "I turned the outlets so they were closed. I will make sure that they are turned closed when not in use."

That issue was also listed as being corrected.

Widomski told the newspaper that the fire appeared to have started in the living room area on the first floor. The department's two fire inspectors and three Erie police detectives trained in fire investigations are working to determine the cause of the blaze.

The owner of the center was flown to UPMC Mercy for treatment, Santone said.

Erie police detectives said the owner was in stable condition, the newspaper reported.

Santone said a neighbor was also injured.

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Credits

The Associated Press

(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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