10 killed, including 8 children, in Jefferson County fire
April 3, 2008 1:30 PM
Authorities gather near the house that was the scene of fatal fire in Brockway.
Brockway Mayor William Hrinia, left, and Fire Chief Chris Benson discuss the fatal fire in which 10 people died.
Paul A. Wilson, The Courier-Express via AP
Sparks fly from two crossed power lines as firefighters confront the raging fire in Brockway in which at least eight people were killed.
By Michael A. Fuoco Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
BROCKWAY, Pa. -- A middle-of-the-night fire engulfed a rural Jefferson County home killing 10 people, including eight children, state police said.
Two people -- a brother and a sister -- escaped. The woman who escaped lost two children, her mother and five siblings in the fire. She jumped from the second floor and ran naked to a neighbor screaming for help, authorities and a witness said. The flames were so intense they melted the siding on a neighboring house.
Brockway Area School Superintendent Stephen Zarlinski said five of the victims were students in the school district -- ranging from kindergarten through grade 12.
"We've had school counselors, psychologists in there. We have a crisis intervention team that was called together early this morning. We're dealing with it the best we can," he said.
Mr. Zarlinski, who has been in the district for 25 years, said, "They're all a great group of kids who will be sadly missed. When we lose one student, it's a tragedy. To lose this many at the same time is hard to comprehend and understand."
The victims were identified as Kimberly Peterson, 40, her daughters Rebecca, 17, Grace, 6, and Lillian, 11 months; and sons Douglas III, 13, and Isaac, 8.
Other victims were 4-month-old Kaylyn Watson, the daughter of Rebecca Peterson, and Jason Mowry, 19, also of Brockway, who was visiting for the night.
The children of the woman who escaped, Elizabeth Peterson, 20, also died. They were identified as Desirre Delullo, 2, and Dominic Delullo, 4.
Ms. Peterson's brother, James, 11, also escaped.
The husband of Kimberly Peterson, James Peterson Jr., was working an overnight shift and arrived on the scene at 3 a.m.
The fire, which started around 2:30 a.m., badly damaged the light blue house, state police Trooper Bruce Morris said.
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.
Three fire marshals were investigating, but police said the fire did not appear suspicious.
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. The woman had jumped from the second floor and ran to Ms. Hynds' home.
Trooper Mark Schrecengost said fire crews arrived within minutes and the house was already ablaze.
Brockway is a rural town of about 2,300 residents set among rolling hills and farmland 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The home was on Pershing Avenue, a main drag lined with several other single-family homes.
An SUV in the home's driveway was partly burned. Vinyl siding on the house next door had partly melted away from the heat.
Bill Fustini, a mail carrier who delivered to the family nearly every day, 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," Mr. Fustini said.
Staff Writer Eleanor Chute and the Associated Press contributed. More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.