Zappos Founder Locked Self in Shed Before Deadly Fire

Investigators say blaze may have been intentional
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2021 3:39 PM CST
Fire That Killed Zappos Founder May Have Been Intentional
In this Sept. 30, 2013 photo, Tony Hsieh speaks during a Grand Rapids Economic Club luncheon in Grand Rapids, Mich.   (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

The fire that killed Zappos founder Tony Hsieh in November may not have been accidentally set, investigators in Connecticut say, though they have given its cause as undetermined. Fire investigators say security video captured the 46-year-old peering out the door of a pool storage shed; smoke could be seen behind him, and the sound of a deadbolt engaging was heard after he shut the door, the New York Times reports. Firefighters broke down the door and took Hsieh to the hospital; he died nine days after the Nov. 18 fire. Investigators say they were unable to pinpoint the cause of the fire because there were numerous possibilities: Candles and discarded cigarettes were found inside the shed, along with a portable propane heater that Hsieh had partially taken apart. Investigators also found liquor bottles, a marijuana pipe, and nitrous oxide chargers.

Friends say Hsieh had fallen into a spiral of extreme behavior in the months before the blaze and developed a fascination with fire and candles. On the night of the fire, he had been staying at the home of girlfriend Rachael Brown and was meant to leave for Hawaii early in the morning; friends say he intended to go to rehab there, the Wall Street Journal reports. After arguing with Brown, he went to sleep in the pool shed and asked brother Andy Hsieh and an employee to check on him every five minutes. According to a fire department's report, when Andy Hsieh told his brother at 3:20am that it was time to leave for the airport, Tony Hsieh told him to come back in five minutes. Within a minute, a carbon monoxide alarm and "a noise consistent with the relief valve on a propane tank" could be heard, the report states. "It is possible that carelessness or even an intentional act" could have started the fire, the report states. (Read more Tony Hsieh stories.)

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