ERIE, Pa. – Three of five children killed in a fire at a home child-care center in Pennsylvania were the children of a volunteer firefighter who was responding to another call, an official said Monday.
Luther Jones' two daughters and a son were trapped in a blaze in the lakeside city of Erie while he was responding to a call for what turned out to be a malfunctioning alarm, said Joe Crotty, volunteer fire chief in Lawrence Park Township.
The children haven't been formally identified, but the Erie Fire Department reported the dead range in age from 8 months to 7 years. The owner was hospitalized after the fire Sunday. Erie fire officials say the children were staying overnight at a house that had been turned into a day-care center.
The mother of Jones' three children, Shevona Overton, who said she is also the mother of another child killed, told WICU that she had "lost a piece of me that can never be replaced."
"I'm just so hurt my babies are gone," she said. "I love them dearly. I just hurt inside knowing that my kids were fighting and hurting in that fire. Every minute, I feel the same pain."
The fire, reported about 1:15 a.m. Sunday, was funneling out of every first-floor window when firefighters arrived, Erie Chief Fire Inspector John Widomski said the blaze appeared to have started in the first-floor living room.
The department's two fire inspectors and three Erie police detectives trained in fire investigations are working to determine the cause.
Valerie Lockett-Slupski, standing across the street from the fire-damaged house, said that she was the grandmother of four of the children — two boys and two girls — and that they were staying at the home because their parents were working overnight.
"So, we are all at a loss, trying to figure out how this happened," Lockett-Slupski said.
Erie police detectives said that the owner was listed in stable condition after being flown to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Mercy. Chief Guy Santone of the Erie Fire Department said a neighbor was also injured.
The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership lists the Harris Family Daycare as "a 24 hour, 7 days a week child-care service including holidays."