A long-awaited report about the cause of the massive fire at an Annapolis mansion that killed six people focuses in on the Christmas tree.
The Jan. 19 fire at the waterfront mansion killed technology exec Don Pyle, his wife Sandy and their four grandchildren.
“A fire originating in or near the Christmas tree is the only reasonable explanation as to why this fire developed at the rate it did,” the report from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department and federal ATF states.
The narrative of the report goes into exacting detail about the history of the 15 ft. Douglas Fir, tracing the time it was cut down in West Jefferson, N.C., and transported to Lutherville. The report states that the tree was getting dry and dropping needles. It was scheduled to be taken down the next day.
“Don and Sandy Pyle both wanted to keep the tree in the Great Room longer because they felt like they hadn’t had a chance to enjoy it,” the report states.
The fire likely started in an electrical outlet, then ignited the tree skirt or plastic covering. The fire then spread to the tree, which burned rapidly because it was dry, the report states.
In addition to interviews and analysis, officials also conducted controlled burns to recreate the probable conditions for the fire around such a tree.
The report says Don Pyle was found in the mansion’s Great Room, where the tree was located. He was attempting to fight the fire. Sandy Pyle was found in a guest bedroom. Her grandchildren were staying in the guest bedrooms, and she was believed to be trying to save them.