An electrical failure that ignited a dry Christmas tree caused a massive fire that gutted a mansion in Maryland last week, killing four young children and their grandparents, authorities said Wednesday.
An official cause of death was not released, although one person familiar with the investigation told the Washington Post that all six died of smoke inhalation.
Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Allan Graves told reporters that the electrical failure occurred in the home’s "great room," igniting a large 15-foot Christmas tree that had been cut about 60 days earlier.
The tree produced a tinder-dry fuel source the likely produced a lot of heat very quickly. It took more than 80 firefighters hours to put out the blaze after it was reported around 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 19.
Even then, it took days to dig through the charred rubble to find the six bodies.
Killed in the blaze were the mansion's owners, Don and Sandra Pyle, along with the four grandchildren, identified by the Post as the children of brothers Clint and Randy Boone: Lexi, 8; Katie, 7; and their first cousins, Charlotte, 8; and Wes, 6.
Fire officials on Wednesday did not elaborate on where the bodies were found.
In a joint statement, the Boone and Pyle families said that while the explanation of what caused the fire "did not bring us solace, it does start us down the long road to acceptance."
They went on to thank the various agencies involved in the firefight and ensuing investigation, according to the statement carried by W-USA TV.
"We believe life is about making memories," the statement read. "As we work through our pain and loss, the memories we made with our family will sustain us."
Investigators on Monday located the last missing victim from the Jan. 19 fire that gutted a mansion in Annapolis. All occupants are now believed to be accounted for, according to the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
Authorities plan to keep combing through the site this week as they investigate the cause of the blaze, which consumed the 16,000-square-foot home of a cyber security executive.
The body of the last victim was not immediately identified.
Fire officials on Friday said they recovered another body from the destroyed mansion, leaving just one more occupant still unaccounted for.
The medical examiner took possession of the body, which was not identified, and transported it to Baltimore for an autopsy, according to an update from the
Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
Authorities planned to resume their search of the charred home on Saturday.
So far, five bodies have been recovered from the mansion, with six occupants feared dead. The fire gutted the 16,000-square-foot house on Monday, causing it to collapse and delaying the search for victims.
In a letter on the company's website, the CEO of ScienceLogic, David Link, confirmed the death of Don Pyle in the fire that burned down Pyle's Annapolis mansion.
"It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of our dear colleague, stellar friend, mentor to many, and most of all simply an excellent man: Don Pyle," Link wrote.
"While the sudden loss of Don and his family is a blow to the ScienceLogic team, we know that we are not alone in grieving the passing of a great, irreplaceable man."
Link described Pyle, who joined the company as COO in September 2014, as "a philanthropist, avid fisherman, and doting grandfather."
"Our core thoughts and prayers are primarily with Don, Sandy, their grandchildren and those remaining family members," Link wrote.
Authorities have recovered four bodies from the house so far, but have not officially confirmed their identities.
Pyle's wife, Sandra Pyle, and four relatives, including their grandchildren, are presumed dead in the fire.
Two more bodies were found in the burned wreckage of an Annapolis mansion on Thursday, bringing the total to four, Anne Arundel County officials said in a statement.
Authorities said they have not identified if the bodies belonged to adults or children.
Six people were unaccounted for after the fire, including homeowners Don and Sandra Pyle as well as their four grandchildren, who were between 6 and 8 years old.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Two bodies were recovered in the ruins of the Annapolis mansion that was destroyed in a massive fire on Monday.
After the structure was secured on Wednesday, investigators were able to enter the house for the first time since the fire. A cadaver canine helped to locate two bodies which were transported to Baltimore for autopsy and identification, Anne Arundel County officials said in a press briefing.
The owners of the house, a cybersecurity executive and his wife, along with four relatives were unaccounted for, and presumed dead, in the fire.
Six family members remain missing after their multimillion dollar home in Annapolis, Maryland, was destroyed in a massive fire early Monday.
"We know who's unaccounted for," Captain Russ Davies, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County fire department, told The Guardian. "If you look at the damage, you know, it would not be a stretch to think that if there were occupants that they did not survive the fire."
In a press briefing Tuesday, fire official Captain Robert M. Howarth said they don't have "100% proof" of whether the six family members are in the house, but indicated that the house was the primary spot for locating them.
He did not confirm whether the fire was an accident or a result of criminal activity.
Howarth said that the entire 16,000-square-foot house had collapsed.
Donald Pyle, an executive with cybersecurity company ScienceLogic, his wife Sandra Pyle, and their four relatives are unaccounted for after the fire, the Washington Post reported.
While Annapolis officials did not confirm the names of the six members, the couple and their four grandchildren are believed to have perished in the fire, according to a letter from the headmaster of the children's school, obtained by the Capital Gazette.
A spokesperson for ScienceLogic confirmed to BuzzFeed News that there was a fire at Pyle's house but said that the company had no further comment.
A total of 85 firefighters battled the blaze, which began at around 3:30 a.m. Monday, according to a press release from Anne Arundel County officials. The fire, brought under control in three hours, is not considered to be suspicious, officials said.
First units on the scene received conflicting reports about the occupants of the house, with some indicating they were at home, while others suggested they were out of town.
After interviews with family, officials determined that six members of the family were unaccounted for.
Firefighters were unable to search for occupants due to the active fire and concerns over the house's structural stability.
Officials estimated that the financial loss from the fire will be "in the millions of dollars." The eight-acre property was previously assessed at more than $6.6 million, the Washington Post reported.
Howarth told reporters Tuesday that the county had not seen a "fire of this magnitude" in terms of the people unaccounted for. He said there was still an active fire burning deep inside the house and crews are expected to enter the structure for the first time tomorrow.
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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