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Police: Fatal Carmel Fire Started with Cigarette Ash Dumped on Mulch [VIDEO]

Officials announced the findings around 4 p.m. Thursday.

The fire that killed four members of the Sullivan family May 1—and left a single survivor—started with the disposal of cigarette ash onto mulch outside the house, police said.

Several officials announced the news at a press conference around 4 p.m. Thursday. They said that Thomas Sullivan, Jr., 20, the only survivor, fully cooperated with investigators. He reportedly told authorities he had smoked cigarettes in the area where the fire originated several times the night of May 1.

He was the only member of the family who smoked, according to Carmel Police Chief Mike Johnson. Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell——told reporters that smoking outside of the home was a routine practice for Sullivan, Jr., and that his family members were aware of it.

Dan Tompkins, captain of the Putnam County Fire Investigation Team, called the blaze "the perfect storm," because of strong winds, a stint of recent dry weather and cigarette ash that had been sitting on the mulch for several hours.

Investigators could not say whether smoke detectors sounded. They said they are continuing their probe into other aspects of the blaze.

Luci Vale June 08, 2012 at 03:01 PM
We all realize this dear young man made an unexpected tragic mistake, and will be tormented for a long time. Optimistically, my hope is Thomas will become an advocate to help others stop smoking, and that getting cancer is not the only reason to give up this useless addiction. I gave up smoking many years ago, which took about a year to break the habit. Tragedy, sometimes developes awareness of the power to change things for the better. My prayer for Thomas is to take this horrifying loss of his family, and turn it into awareness of all the dangers that comes from smoking, and other addictions. I believe Thomas can become the warrior we need to fight this battle, and save lives. That may be why he was the only survivor. This young man needs our sincere prayers to become the advocate to help others stop dangerous addictions, but also awareness of fire hazards.
ts June 08, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Ok, then make the cause of the fire public and have it reported by the media. I am certain that it would be helpful for the public to know that a perfect storm can happen by putting your ashes in mulch. You have made your case for that but do we all need to know whose ashes it was that cause the fatal fire? Do we also need to know who is a close friend of the family that can vouch that the person does it routinely? Seriously? How does that help anyone other than the media's desire for sensationalism even at the cost of putting more tragic guilt on young person who is barely an adult? Please. The second and third paragraphs in this report were completely unnecessary.
Kris June 09, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Well stated, The second and third paragraphs are totally unnecessary for and serve NO benefit. Accidental cause would have been enough information for me. Our prayer go out to him.
C Gajowski June 11, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Maybe. I know this is a horrible thing for the young man. But if there wasn't an explanation, people would have been making guesses about the cause - and the guesses may have included intentional arson, so those paragraphs are important to provide an understanding of how this could happen, and actually to remove unfounded suspicions. This fire wasn't intentional, but it did result from someone's negligence - rather like driving recklessly or under the influence may result in "accidents" Maybe this this will make someone else more careful. And save some other lives.
lillian philbin June 12, 2012 at 12:14 AM
This young man needs all the support and love he can get My heart breaks for him and his family. It only takes a second for a tragedy to occur. Value each moment. Lillian Philbin

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