CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Eight people, including a woman celebrating her 26th birthday and six young children who stayed over for a slumber party, died Saturday when fire tore through a two-story home while they slept, officials and witnesses said.
A seventh child was on life support after the blaze, the deadliest in West Virginia's capital city in more than 60 years, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said.
The cause was under investigation. The fire appeared to have started on the first floor of the home, Charleston Assistant Fire Chief Bob Sharp said. Jones said the home had no functioning smoke detectors; one was found in a cabinet, but it didn't work.
Sharp said two of those killed were adults and all of the children who died were younger than 8. Ten people were inside the house at the time of the fire — about 3:30 a.m. — and all were related.
The home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. When they went inside, they immediately came across five victims and "started realizing there were a lot of people in this house, a lot of children."
Jones said he was devastated by the news when he got the call after the fire was reported.
"I was with my children and I just grabbed them and hugged them, because I have a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old," he said. "I walked up there and caught a glimpse of some fatalities and it's something that's hard to grasp. The fact that there are (six) dead children, it's unimaginable."