Erie fire chief says loopholes prevented thorough safety inspection at house where 5 died

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The fire chief said the city was not aware of the daycare

ERIE, Pa. (WKBN and WJET) – The Erie fire chief says a loophole in daycare licensing may have prevented an inspection that would have an included a more thorough check of safety measures.

Five children died Saturday at a house that was operating as a daycare on 1248 West 11th St.

The owner, Elaine Harris, was injured in the fire. Two teenagers escaped.

Fire Chief Guy Santone said daycares that were permitted prior to 2004 were permitted through the state. Daycares seeking permits after 2004 have to be permitted through the city. He said the city was not aware Harris was operating out of her house.

“There are two loopholes when the state permits it before 2004, you don’t have to notify the local authorities, so, their inspection company is the Department of Human Services. The other loophole is when they inspect, they basically inspect just for cleanliness – they don’t inspect for smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, anything of that nature,” Santone said.

Santone said there was only one working smoke detector in the house and it was placed in the attic.

The cause of the fire is likely electrical, Santone said. Several items were found plugged into multiple extension cords located underneath a couch.

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