POTTSVILLE, Pa. — Fire tore through a family’s eastern Pennsylvania home on Mother’s Day, authorities said, killing four young children, their father, and another relative while their mother was across the street doing laundry at a friend’s house.
The blaze broke out around 11:55 p.m. Sunday at the single-family home in Pottsville. Firefighters later found all of the bodies on the third floor of the building, which is on a steep hillside near the D.G. Yuengling & Son brewery in coal country, about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
The fire was declared under control shortly before 1 a.m. State police fire marshals were sifting through the debris later Monday morning and authorities were searching for the cause of the blaze, which investigators said began in the kitchen.
Fire Chief Todd March said it was the deadliest blaze in Pottsville, a city of about 14,000, in his 37-year career.
The Schuylkill County Coroner’s office identified the victims as Eric Brown, 30; and his children, Elijah, 2; Emily, 3; Jeremiah, 7; and Joy, 8. Kristina Thomas, 26, also died in the fire. She was the sister of 28-year-old Kelly Brown, the mother who survived.
Kelly Brown had been doing laundry at a neighbor’s house nearby at the time of the blaze because her washing machine was broken, according to the neighbor, Jennifer Purcell.
Neighbors said they heard screams for help, but the flames were too intense by the time they got to the house.
Investigators were looking at a wood-burning stove in the kitchen as one of several possible causes. March also said there was no immediate evidence of smoke detectors in the home.