Son's Cigarette Ash Sparked Fire That Wiped Out Family
Ember ignited dry mulch, investigators say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2012 12:30 AM CDT
Updated Jun 8, 2012 4:07 AM CDT
Police Captain Thomas Sullivan Sr. died in the blaze along with his wife and their two teenage daughters.   (Larchmont Police)
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(Newser) – A young man smoking on the front porch of his home caused a fire that wiped out his entire family, leaving him as the sole survivor, police say. Investigators now believe that the 20-year-old flicked cigarette ash into a mulch bed at the foot of the porch in April, sparking a fire that smoldered for hours before it ignited a plastic trellis and the wooden porch and then engulfed the entire home, reports AP. The blaze killed police captain Thomas Sullivan, his wife, Donna, and their daughters Meaghan, 18, and Mairead, 13. The police captain woke his son and sent him out of the house before apparently trying to save the rest of the family.

The fire shocked the community of Carmel, 60 miles north of New York City. The son, who now lives with an aunt, is "taking this very hard," said a police spokesman. Cops say he cooperated with investigators from the start, and admitted smoking on the porch, which family rules allowed him to do. The mulch was especially dry the night of the fire because of weather conditions, say investigators, who managed to recreate the blaze conditions with the son's help. "Don't drop your cigarette butts in mulch," warns the captain of the fire investigation team.