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Crews called to same home 2 days before fire that killed Tony Hsieh

Updated December 18, 2020 - 7:33 pm

Two days before responding to the fire that killed tech entrepreneur Tony Hsieh, firefighters were called to the same home twice within half an hour.

After insisting on investigating, officials found a burning candle in an unsafe location and melted plastic on the stovetop, records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal show.

The reports from those calls offer a glimpse into what was happening at the home in New London, Connecticut, in the days leading up to the fire that killed the former Zappos CEO.

Reached by phone on Friday, New London Fire Chief Thomas Curcio said he could not say whether there were any similarities between what crews found on Nov. 16 and what they found when they responded to the fatal fire on Nov. 18.

Hsieh’s name does not appear in the reports, and it was unclear if he was at the home when crews arrived on the earlier date.

Firefighters were dispatched to the home at 500 Pequot Ave. about 12:50 a.m. on Nov. 16 after a smoke detector went off, records show.

Someone met firefighters at the door and said the alarm’s activation was due to cooking and there was no problem at the house, according to the report. The Fire Department’s help was not needed.

Then, seconds before 1:17 a.m., an alarm went off again. Firefighters arrived within minutes.

An unidentified man told firefighters there was no problem, according to the report.

“Male did not want crews to investigate the cause of the alarm, however was advised that we needed to enter the home to assess the situations,” the report states. “It was at this time we learned that the male was not the homeowner.”

After going into the basement, firefighters found smoke, according to the report.

“Also found were melted plastic items on the stove top along with cardboard that was hot to the touch,” the report states. The stove was off.

A woman appeared, said she was the homeowner, and worked with firefighters on soaking all the melted items.

Former longtime Zappos employee Rachael Brown owns the home on Pequot Avenue. She did not respond to a message from the Review-Journal on Friday.

“Also found was an unattended candle burning in an unsafe location which was extinguished,” the report states.

The crew offered fire safety tips while the smoke cleared.

The report does not say what items were melted or specify where the candle was burning.

This month, two people told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Hsieh’s Park City, Utah, mansion had candles strewn about the house.

Just more than 48 hours after responding to the second fire alarm, a fire broke out at the home on Pequot Avenue, leading to Hsieh’s death nine days later at a hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Hsieh, 46, died of complications from smoke inhalation. His death was ruled an accident.

The investigation into the Nov. 18 fire is not expected to be complete until next month at the earliest.

Many questions remain unanswered, including whether Hsieh was “trapped” or “barricaded” in the home during the fatal fire. Both words were used in emergency responder radio traffic.

“That will probably come out in the final report,” Curcio said.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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