A Chester man has been charged with five counts of attempted homicide after trying to burn down a house belonging to an acquaintance as the acquaintance and their children, one as young as 4 months old, were sleeping inside, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Brian Showell, 38, also faces charges of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and aggravated arson in the blaze, which investigators said was set late May 13 at a home on Vauclain Street in Chester.

Showell’s attorney, James Bonner, declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

“It would be hard to conjure a more despicable and cowardly act,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said in a statement.

“The damage done by this defendant extends beyond the damage to the residence — it will, unfortunately, remain with these children forever,” Stollsteimer said. “We must make sure that this family receives the help that it will need to recover from this heinous crime.”

Prosecutors declined to comment on a motive for starting the fire but saidShowell knew the victim.

Surveillance footage from a nearby home recorded Showell lighting a fire on the back door, and then spraying the flames with an unknown accelerant, according to the affidavit of probable cause for his arrest.

An adult who was sleeping inside the home at the time woke up as smoke filled the structure, and attempted to douse the fire with water, the affidavit said. That adult was able to safely leave the house, along with four children who had also been asleep inside.

None sustained major injuries, according to police.