The investigation into the huge blaze that killed a Maryland couple and their four grandchildren earlier this month has pinned the blame on a major fire hazard right in the middle of the mansion's "Great Room": A 2-month-old, 15-foot Christmas tree. Fire officials say an electrical failure ignited the dried-out tree, causing a late-night blaze that engulfed the Annapolis-area home within a couple of minutes, the Baltimore Sun reports. Homeowners Don and Sandra Pyle and their four grandchildren—sisters Alexis and Kaitlyn Boone, 7 and 8, and their cousins Charlotte and Wesley Boone, 8 and 6—were sleeping in rooms connected to the main room and the fire would probably have blocked their escape routes, investigators say.
"The fuel load from the Christmas tree itself is what created the significant amount of fire and what caused the fire to spread as quickly as it did," a county fire marshal told reporters, adding that it would "without a doubt" have made a difference if the home had a sprinkler system. Investigators say that the Pyles had a tradition of extending Christmas for their grandchildren, and left the tree "lit most of the time," WBAL reports. The final body was removed from the mansion's ruins earlier this week and the families issued a statement thanking the community and first responders, reports the New York Daily News. "Though we are grieving deeply, this has brought us some small sense of closure," they said. (Read more Annapolis stories.)