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Portsmouth townhome that caught fire, leaving 7 children hospitalized, is licensed as daycare

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Posted at 12:19 PM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 19:08:20-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Seven children were hospitalized following a Portsmouth townhome fire Wednesday, and News 3 has learned that the involved home was licensed as a daycare.

According to an office that handles business licenses in the City of Portsmouth, the daycare was called Indoor/Outdoor Reach LLC. Nine children were inside the home at the time of the fire; according to fire officials, there were only children inside the home, with no adults or parents present.

We also reached out to the Virginia Department of Education, who said the daycare is not licensed by the agency. It is, however, licensed by the City of Portsmouth.

The person News 3 spoke with was not able to release the owners' names, and did not have any information on if the daycare had any previous violations.

While at the scene of the fire Thursday morning, News 3 reporter Antoinette DelBel spoke to Durrell Skeeter, a neighbor who caught five children who jumped from the townhome's second-story window.

Skeeter lives two doors down. He described the frightening moments he saw flames and smoke coming from his neighbor’s house.

“There was a lot of smoke coming out of this window right here,” said Skeeter. “I was panicking.”

He said his five-year-old godson Tavis saw the smoke coming from the Greenwood Drive home Wednesday and ran to get him.

Several children were trapped upstairs yelling for help.

“We heard the kids screaming and we couldn’t get up the stairs,” Skeeter said.

Heavy smoke in the front of the house kept Skeeter from going inside, so he said he and another man quickly ran to the back and saw the kids nearly hanging out of the second-floor window.

“They were in shock, crying, scared,” said Skeeter.

He said he then told the kids to jump, catching five of them in his arms.

“I reached my arms up and they jumped right on out,” he said.

Skeeter got the children out just in time.

“The window started breaking and it started getting oxygen, and the fire was just getting bigger and bigger," said Skeeter.

Firefighters arrived on scene shortly after and rescued two more children out of the home. They were taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

Skeeter said the woman who runs Indoor/Outdoor Reach out of the townhome was outside getting the daycare’s van ready to bring the kids home when the fire broke out.

Fire officials confirmed the kids were in the house alone.

“She was a great daycare sitter,” Skeeter said. “She’d teach the kids. They’re not just at home running around playing video games.”

Still, Skeeter said he’s just glad everyone got out safely.

“I’m praying for everyone,” he said.

He said he doesn't consider himself a hero for his actions.

“No, just kids just needed some help,” he said. “I’m not a hero.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and fire officials don’t know if the home had working smoke alarms.

News 3 called the daycare and have not heard back. A Facebook page for the business has now been taken down.

When asked if any parents or adults are being charged, Portsmouth's deputy fire chief responded that the fire is still under investigation.

Around 3 p.m. on Thursday, the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters gave an update on children brought from this fire and one in Suffolk that happened the same day. They did not go into specifics about which fire the injuries were from in the update but said four of the 10 fire victims brought from the Suffolk and Portsmouth fires are in the intensive care unit of CHKD as of noon. The rest are in general care units, and they could not release anything further.

Stay with News 3 for updates.