CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Eight people, including a woman celebrating her 26th birthday and six young children who stayed over for a family 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.
A children’s picnic table, chairs and an umbrella were overturned in the yard of the home, sitting on a corner in a neighborhood tightly packed with small houses. The outside of the front of the home was blackened by the flames and smoke. Two upstairs windows were shattered and blackened, and what appeared to be an opening for an upstairs air conditioner was stuffed shut with clothes.
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.
Roxie Means and her 14-year-old daughter, Cassie, attended a birthday party Friday for Lisa Carter, a hotel worker whose 26th birthday was Saturday. A manager at the Holiday Inn Express Charleston Civic Center said he was told Saturday that Carter had been killed.
Carter and her two children were staying with her sister at the home, Roxie Means said.
People started showing up for the party around 2 p.m. Friday and it started outside an hour later with a cookout and toasts to the birthday girl.
“They were nice people drinking a glass of wine,” Roxie Means said. “They weren’t drunk. They weren’t overdoing anything.”
Cassie Means said she had gotten to know Carter and played with her children often. Carter told her that she was planning to get married in June and move to Pittsburgh to start a new chapter in her life.
“I love the kids,” Roxie Means said. “That’s really what hurts us.”