Firefighter loses 3 children in horror fire while he attends separate call-out

Three children killed in a fire at a US home child care centre were those of a volunteer firefighter who was attending a separate call-out, officials have said. 

Luther Jones’ two daughters and a son were among five youngsters who died in the blaze in the town of Erie on the shore of Lake Erie in northern Pennsylvania in the early hours of Sunday.

At the time, Mr Jones was out on a different call that turned out to be a malfunctioning alarm, Lawrence Park Township Volunteer Fire Chief Joe Crotty said.

Local TV station WICU said the call-out he attended with the Lawrence Park Fire Department (LPFD) was “just blocks away” from the blaze in which his children died.

The victims have not been formally identified, but the Erie Fire Department said they are between eight months and seven years old.

Pictures of one of them, identified as two-year-old Dalvin Pacley, have been posted online by his mother, Karina Facchiano.

The toddler survived the longest of the victims before dying in hospital.

The mother of Mr Jones’ three children, Shevona Overton, who is also the mother of another child killed, said she had “lost a piece of me that can never be replaced,” WICU reported.

“I’m just so hurt my babies are gone. 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,” she added.

Valerie Lockett-Slupski, Mr Jones’ mother and, she said, grandmother to four of the five children who died, told Erie News Now they were staying at the home because their parents were working overnight.

“We are all at a loss, trying to figure out how this happened,” she said.

Firefighters were called to the centre, at a house on the city’s west side, at about 1.15am, and found smoke and flames coming out of every first-floor window, Erie Chief Fire Inspector John Widomski told the Erie Times-News.

Erie Fire Chief Guy Santone said the cause of the blaze has not been confirmed, but appeared to have started in the living room area on the first floor.

Investigators found many electrical cords under a sofa there, with many things plugged into them, he added.

Chief Santone said as many as eight people were trapped in the burning home, including five children, two teens and Elaine Harris the woman who ran a 24-hour daycare there.

Ms Harris suffered burns and was flown to Mercy Hospital Burn Unit in Pittsburgh where Erie News Now reported she was in a stable condition.

LPFD is collecting donations to help Jones and his family cover funeral costs.