The fire that killed four members of the Sullivan family May 1—and left a single survivor—started with the disposal of cigarette ash onto mulch outside the house, police said.
Several officials announced the news at a press conference around 4 p.m. Thursday. They said that Thomas Sullivan, Jr., 20, the only survivor, fully cooperated with investigators. He reportedly told authorities he had smoked cigarettes in the area where the fire originated several times the night of May 1.
He was the only member of the family who smoked, according to Carmel Police Chief Mike Johnson. Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell——told reporters that smoking outside of the home was a routine practice for Sullivan, Jr., and that his family members were aware of it.
Dan Tompkins, captain of the Putnam County Fire Investigation Team, called the blaze "the perfect storm," because of strong winds, a stint of recent dry weather and cigarette ash that had been sitting on the mulch for several hours.
Investigators could not say whether smoke detectors sounded. They said they are continuing their probe into other aspects of the blaze.