Five children were killed early Sunday after a fire ripped through an overnight daycare facility in northwestern Pennsylvania.
In what they described as a “very tough night,” the Erie Fire Department of Erie, Pennsylvania, said firefighters were called to the 1200 block of West 11th St. just after 1 a.m. following reports of a structure fire with multiple occupants trapped inside.
The department said firefighters were able to rescue all seven people inside the building, and that many were young children in critical condition.
Five children were pulled from the house died, while a sixth person was flown to UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh for treatment, a spokesperson for the Erie Police Department confirms to PEOPLE. The seventh person rescued, believed to be a teenager, escaped with minor injuries and was not hospitalized, the spokesperson said.
Four of the five children killed were siblings: two boys and two girls ages 8, 6, 4 and 10 months old, their grandmother Valerie Lockett-Slupski told the Erie Times-News.
“We are all at a loss, trying to figure out how this happened,” she said, noting the kids were staying at the residence, an overnight daycare, while their parents worked.
The fire address given by police is registered as a business called Harris Family Daycare on the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership’s website.
The injured victim flown to Pittsburgh was identified by the Erie Times-News as Elaine Harris, the owner of the house and the operator of the daycare. Erie police detectives said she is in stable condition.
Harris Family Day Care calls itself as a 24-hour, 7 days a week childcare service facility that teaches “kids age-appropriate skills,” according to its website.
Neighbors described a chaotic scene amid the blaze, with Danika Scott, who lives next door, telling the Times-News she heard a teenager screaming and a 12-year-old jumping from the roof of the house yelling, “Where is my mom going to live?”
“The fire was just nuts… nuts,” she said.
Chief Fire Inspector John Widomski told the outlet that flames were bursting out of every window of the house’s first floor when firefighters arrived.
“The deputy (fire chief on the scene) told me he hasn’t seen fire blow out of a building like that in a long time,” he said.
Erie News Now reports that first responders did chest compressions on the victims as they left the scene on stretchers.
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