A 5-year-old boy revealed to investigators that he intentionally set fire to his home with a lighter Sunday night. He, his mother, and two other children escaped the blaze but his 2-year-old cousin died of smoke inhalation in an upstairs bedroom.

Children under the age of 10 cannot be prosecuted for homicide in Pennsylvania, but the boy will be evaluated by Children Youth and Families and court proceedings may result in his being removed from the family.

According to Stephen A. Zappala Jr., the Allegheny County district attorney, the landlord had likely violated local ordinance by not maintaining or providing smoke alarms in the rental property. The scene was reported by firemen and neighbors to have been silent, with no alarms sounding at the time of the fire.

Mayor Michael Cherepko said 60 percent of the houses in McKeesport are owned by absentee landlords and that many of those landlords allow their properties to fall into a state of disrepair. His administration is working on a plan to better enforce local ordinance through the occupancy permit process.

We in the rental industry are all very aware of the many associated tasks and daily responsibilities that may, at times, feel burdensome. It is after tragedies like these, however, where it becomes abundantly clear that dire consequences can result from our negligence.

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