Those who perished ranged in age from 7 months to 11 years. A 3-year-old child survived.
The children's father had left the two-storey home, on a working farm in dairy country not far from the state capital, to get his truck around 10 pm yesterday, Trooper Tom Pinkerton said.
Two children, ages 2 and 3, were watching television at the time. The father drove a short distance away to pick up milk and then parked the truck about a mile from home. Then, Pinkerton said, he nodded off.
Soon after, one of the children smelled smoke in the home and ran to the barn to alert the mother, Pinkerton said. The Soon after, the 3-year-old smelled smoke in the home and ran to the barn to alert the mother, Pinkerton said.
The mother told a neighbour to call 911, ran with the child to the father's truck and banged on its windows, screaming that their home was on fire, he said.
By the time the father returned to the home in Blain, about 20 miles north of Harrisburg, it was fully engulfed by flames, Pinkerton said.
Firefighters had arrived and were battling the blaze at the charred home, whose windows were blown out. The Perry County coroner ruled the children died of smoke inhalation, Pinkerton said.
No cause or origin of the fire had been determined by early today morning. Fire marshals were investigating.
A fire truck and an ambulance remained at the scene while firefighters sifted through debris on the ground floor of the farmhouse, which is surrounded by barns and silos. Authorities closed part of a highway near the farm because of the fire and the investigation.