Pennsylvania House Fire Kills Six Children, 26-Year-Old Woman

Fire swept through a house in southwestern Pennsylvania early Saturday, killing six young children and a woman and injuring one other person, state police said.

Several people in the house were able to escape, state Trooper Brian Burden said.

Police said the young victims were four girls ages 4, 9, 7 and 10, and two boys ages 2 and 3. Authorities had not determined the relationship between the children and the woman, who was 26.

Robert Husner, who was staying in the home, said Joshua Arthur Sr., the father of three of the children, woke him and the two of them tried to rescue all six children, who were sleeping in two separate bedrooms.

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"The flames were just too high," said Husner, 27. "I couldn't get in, there was so much smoke."

The home's gas furnace was not working so the residents were using space heaters throughout the home to keep warm, Husner said. Authorities said it was unclear whether they contributed to the fire, which was being investigated by a state police fire marshal.

State police identified the victims as Rebecca Eddy, 26, and her children Tiffany Blake, 10, Rebecca Blake, 9, and Diamond Blake, 7; and Arthur's children, Donna Jo Arthur, 5, Joshua Arthur Jr., 3, and Christopher Arthur, 2. Arthur was listed in serious condition at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. Husner and two other people escaped from the flames, authorities aid.

Firefighters arrived at 3:15 a.m. and found flames 10 to 15 feet high shooting from the split-level house, Waynesburg Volunteer Fire Company Chief Larry Marshall said.

"Fire was shooting out all the windows and doors," Marshall said. The blaze was under control in about 30 minutes, "but it was too late," he said.

Neighbor Mike Vukmanic, 23, who lives about 100 yards away, said he called 911 after he heard "a screaming, pounding noise" and looked out to see the home's back door open and flames inside.

A few minutes later, Vukmanic said, "it was just engulfed."

Vukmanic's stepfather, Tony Simonetti, ran to the house and found a man who told him there were people inside.

"I looked. There was no way to get into the house," Simonetti said.

Waynesburg is in rural southwestern Pennsylvania about 35 miles from Pittsburgh.