WASHINGTON — Nearly two years have passed since four young children and their grandparents died in a mansion fire in Annapolis, Maryland. Now, the homeowner’s sister has become a fire safety advocate.
“I will carry that cold, dark day with me always. The hole in my heart is everlasting,” says Sher Grogg in a video for the group Common Voices.
Her brother Don Pyle; his wife, Sandy, and four grandchildren died when the Pyles’ $6 million house was destroyed by a fire on Jan. 19, 2015. The children ranged in age from 6 to 8.
An investigation determined an electrical problem sparked the fire, and a dry 15-foot Christmas tree fueled the flames. The tree was scheduled to be removed the next day.
“Smoke detectors were state-of-the-art and connected to the alarm system. The house was built like a veritable fortress, but no one made it out alive,” says Grogg.
Fire sprinklers would have made a difference, she says, and she urges anyone who is building a new house to include them.
- When buying a live tree, make sure it’s fresh by looking for green needles that are springy to the touch.
- Place the tree in water as soon as possible, but cut 1-2 inches off the trunk first to help it absorb water.
- Make sure the tree is at least 3 feet away from heat sources, including floor vents.
- Fill your tree stand with water every day.
- Turn off or unplug the tree lights every night before bed and every time you leave home.
- Get rid of strings of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections.
- Be careful not to connect too many strings of lights together. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Get rid of your tree immediately after the holidays, even if it doesn’t seem dry.
Download the complete fire safety leaflet here. Watch the video below of Sher Grogg sharing her story in front of the gates to her brother’s former Childs Point Road mansion.
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