Two bodies recovered from Annapolis mansion destroyed by fire

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

2 bodies found after Maryland mansion fire.

Two bodies were pulled Wednesday from the ruins of an Annapolis mansion destroyed by fire, but the search continued for four others believed to have been in the home and for the cause of the devastating blaze. ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Investigators are expected to begin the search for a man and a woman and their four grandchildren who have been missing since a fire tore through the Annapolis-area mansion relatives say they were in when it burned to the ground. The headmaster of the Severn School, where the children were enrolled, already said in a letter to parents that the four children and their grandparents had died. Fire officials and federal investigators were on the scene of the blaze on Tuesday, extinguishing residual hot spots from fire, which reduced the 16,000-square-foot mansion to rubble early Monday.

Authorities said earlier that they were conducting an “active criminal investigation,” although they did not have any reason to believe that the fire was suspicious. A spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department said the search and investigation into the fire’s cause will likely take “days, not hours” to complete. A number of factors contributed to the fire’s devastation, officials said, including that the house didn’t have sprinklers and its larger floor plan would allow fire to spread more quickly, fed by more oxygen.

The house was constructed more like a commercial building than a typical residence, with heavy steel beams, he said, making it difficult to ensure the scene is safe for investigators to enter. Fire officials said there’s no indication of foul play, but they are treating the site as a crime scene in case any evidence is ultimately needed in court. So far, investigators with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say they have found no reason to bring in accelerant-sniffing dogs. Cheplak said the process is similar to investigations the agency has conducted at church fires, though he said the mansion is much larger than many churches. “The entire house collapsed on top of itself,” Cheplak said. “All those metal I-beams are piled up in the basement.

It is going to take a significant time to get the debris out of the way.” Tax records put the value of property — known to some in the community as “The Castle” — at $6.2 million. A standard house is about 2,500 square feet, so the Pyles’ house is the equivalent of about six standard houses and larger than some commercial businesses. Retrofitting older homes isn’t required, although Montgomery and Prince George’s counties offer tax incentives for homeowners who put sprinkler systems in older homes. Howarth said that is a common practice when there are no eyewitnesses, and it means only that anything recovered in the investigation would be admissible in court. National Fire Protection Association spokesman Robert Duval said investigators will interview first responders and look at burn and smoke patterns to develop theories on where and how the blaze began.

According to a 2008 story in The Baltimore Sun, the Pyles’ house, which was the site of a charity event, was described as looking like a castle, with mini-turrets, stonework and lion statues. In addition to having open floor plans that allow for more oxygen to fuel a fire, Bouch said, large homes can have building materials that tend to ignite quicker than standard lumber, he said.

Larry Wasson, founder of Affiliated Inspectors and a board member of the Maryland Association of Home Inspectors, said larger homes can present additional dangers for occupants in the event of the fire. Don Pyle is chief operating officer of Reston, Va.-based IT company ScienceLogic, which helps organizations monitor computer networks for efficiency, according to the firm’s website.

Pyle doted on his grandchildren, Donovan said, and wrote in an email last June that he was looking forward to spending time over the summer fishing, boating and being a “manny” to the children.

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