BROCKWAY, Pa. – A fire engulfed a rural western Pennsylvania home, killing 10 people, most of them children, while the family patriarch worked an overnight shift.
The fire took the lives of several generations of the Peterson family, including a 40-year-old woman and nine victims under the age of 20. Two of the victims were infants.
Two family members escaped, including a young woman who jumped from the second floor and ran naked and screaming for help, authorities said. The roaring flames melted the siding on a neighboring house.
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The cause remains under investigation, but is not considered suspicious. There were space heaters in the home, authorities said.
State police identified the eldest victim as Kimberly Peterson, 40, and many of the victims as her children and grandchildren. Her husband, Douglas Peterson Jr., was at work in a nearby town.
All 10 victims were found inside the house.
Fire Chief Kris Benson said the front of the house was ablaze when he arrived at 2:50 a.m. and tried to enter through a side door, but was forced back by smoke and flames.
"This fire had a very, very good jump on us," the chief said.
State police identified the other victims as Rebecca Peterson, 17; Douglas Peterson III, 13; Isaac Peterson, 8; Grace Peterson, 6; Lillian Peterson, 11 months; Kaylin Watson, 4 months; Dominic Delullo, 4; Desirre Delullo, 2; and Jason Mowry, 19.
The survivors are Elizabeth Peterson, 20, and James Peterson, 11, authorities said.
"We know everybody, so it's like losing one of your own," said William Hrinia, mayor of the rural town of about 2,000 people, which is set among rolling hills and farmland 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
The three generations lived together in the home, said family friend Carol Paruso.
"They were a tight family and they all took care of each other. That's who they were and that's what makes it so sad," Paruso said, speaking through tears. "They liked to go to church and do family things."
Firefighters brought in wood beams to fortify the structure. The house's facade was charred, leaving a view of the inside of the home, remnants of a front porch and a lopsided stove. Two children's bicycles sat in the rubble.
Jaime Hynds, a newspaper editor who lives across the street from the home, said she was awakened at about 2:30 a.m. by a naked woman shouting for help, her newspaper, The Courier-Express of DuBois, reported. The woman jumped from the second floor and ran to Hynds' home.
Douglas Peterson was working a job in another town when he learned about the fire. He arrived at the house around 4 a.m., officials said.
The home was on Pershing Avenue, a main drag lined with several other single-family homes.
Many residents work at the town's glass manufacturing plants, Owens Brockway Glass Containers, now part of Owens-Illinois Inc. Doug Peterson Jr. worked for the company until a few years ago.
Amy Glasl, principal of Brockway Elementary School, said three children in the family attended her school, two of whom died.
"They loved their kids, obviously. They had a lot of them," Glasl said. "They didn't have a whole lot (materially), but they had each other and that's what made them happy."
The small school district of just about 1,000 students has been hard-hit by the tragedy, Glasl said.
Glasl, who grew up with Doug Peterson Jr., said he had come from a large family himself. Kimberley Peterson was a homemaker, she said.
Letter carrier Bill Fustini, who lives nearby and delivered mail to the home, said his dog woke him up at about 2:30 a.m. When he saw the smoke, he called his son, a firefighter, who told him the home had gone up in flames.
"There was a little girl living in that house and she met me every day and she was the sweetest thing," Fustini said.