(Reuters) - Eight people, including six children under the age of nine, died early Saturday in a fire that swept a two-story wood house in Charleston, West Virginia, the worst death toll in the state’s capital city in decades, a fire official said.
All of the people staying in the house at the time of the fire were related, Charleston Assistant Fire Chief Bob Sharp said. It was not known if they were all living together in the house or if some were visiting, he said.
A seventh child was in a hospital intensive care unit and “not doing great,” Sharp said, and an adult woman occupant of the house who reported the fire from a neighbor’s house was later taken to the hospital “very traumatized” for treatment.
“I’ve been here 26 years and we’ve never had anything of this magnitude,” Sharp said.
The cause of the fire was unknown. Authorities were not yet releasing the names of the people injured or killed in the fire.
There was only one smoke detector found in the house and it was located under a kitchen counter — rather than on a ceiling, so it wasn’t in the best place to alert residents of the emergency, Sharp said.
The deaths appeared to be from smoke inhalation — bodies were found still in sleeping positions, Sharp said.
Sharp said the children in the house ranged in age from one year to eight years old, including five boys and two girls. He did not know if the hospitalized child was a boy or a girl.
The fire was reported at 3:30 a.m. It left the front of the house blackened.
Neighbors interviewed said that the family had only lived in the house for a few months.
“I’d see the kids out riding tricycles,” said Evelyn Fazio, who lives on the same block. “It’s awful.” She said it’s a “quiet, good neighborhood.”
Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by David Bailey