Chief: Children Were Playing With Cigarette Lighter Before Fatal Fire

Published 10/18 2011 06:36AM

Updated 10/18 2011 07:24PM

FRANKLIN COUNTY, PA - A 4-year-old boy is dead after a fire broke out in his home Monday night. Fire officials say the room he was in did not have a smoke detector.

Investigators say eight children were all in a bedroom pretending to smoke. They were lighting drinking straws as if they were cigarettes.  Suddenly, the four-year-old Julius Coachman's clothes caught fire.

Next door neighbor Myrtis Bailey says she saw the woman who was taking care of the children run out, panicked and hysterical.

"She just said 'My baby is upstairs. There's a fire, and the baby.' I looked up and I saw smoke," says Bailey.

The woman is not Julius' mother. Investigators say the mother is in Florida.  

They found Julius face-down in a closet with burns to his legs.  He wasn't breathing.

"We were able to locate a 4-year-old child in a closet on the second floor," says William Fitzgerald, fire chief at the Chambersburg Fire Department. "That child was removed to the outside of the structure where resuscitation efforts were initiated. Unfortunately, those resuscitation efforts failed."

Chief Fitzgerald says the children were in a room that used to have a smoke detector, but it had been removed.

"It was a hard-wired smoke detector initially, but it had been removed from the bracket, so there was no smoke detector in that bedroom," says Fitzgerald.

The woman who was injured just moved into the townhouse a few days ago. None of the other children were hurt and officials say the damage to the outside of the home was no indication of the tragedy that happened inside.

The home is a rental property and it is not known who owns the home.

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