ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A matter of minutes. That’s how long it took for a Christmas tree to fuel the fire that killed six family members in Annapolis.
Christie Ileto has the questions finally being answered in this heartbreaking case.
In the end, it’s a faulty electrical outlet and a dry Christmas tree that are to blame for this fatal inferno.
“The fuel load from the Christmas tree itself is what created a significant amount of fire and heat to spread as quickly as it did,” said Deputy Chief Scott Hoglander.
Investigators believe within minutes, the tree fueled flames through the 16,000 square foot mansion. Tech exec Don Pyle, his wife Sandy and their four grandchildren never made it out alive.
“This fire was the result of a tragic accident that occurred at the absolutely worst possible time, while the Pyles and their grandchildren were sleeping,” said Bill McMullan, ATF.
Dry Christmas trees burn fast. In one demonstration, it took only 15 seconds for flames to engulf the needles. The home, built in 2005, had smoke detectors but no sprinklers—something the state now requires of all new homes.
If they had had a sprinkler system, it would have reacted when the fire was just beginning and would have extinguished the fire. These are the explanations many people have been waiting for. Now investigators need to determine what those conditions were that forced that electrical outlet to fail.
Investigators note the Christmas tree had been cut down more than 60 days before catching fire.
In a statement, the family said:
“While the explanation that has been shared with us today does not bring solace, it does start us down the long road to acceptance.
We continue to express our sincere gratitude to the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Anne Arundel County Crisis Response System, and all other assisting departments. The brave members of these organizations have faced dangerous conditions and heart-breaking discoveries, but they have repeatedly amazed us with their professionalism, respect for our family, and dedication to their work. We are grateful for their heroic efforts.
To those who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers, please know how greatly it is appreciated. Your expressions of care and support will always be with us. Likewise, our thoughts and prayers are with you. Our tragedy has touched many lives in many families, and, in different degrees, is shared by each of us. Our hope is that our loss will raise awareness that this tragic event could happen to any family.
It is our hope that each of you are strengthened in your resolve to cherish your family, friends, and good times. With life so fleeting, make every day and every moment a special time with those you love. We believe that life is about making memories. As we work through our pain and loss, the memories we made with our family will sustain us.
We ask for continued respect of our need for time and privacy as we struggle to begin healing.”