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Investigation Into Annapolis Fire Could Take Days As 6 Feared Dead

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ/AP) --Still missing! Almost two days after fire destroyed a multi-million dollar mansion, there's no sign of a tech executive and five family members. Were they trapped inside the house?

An investigation could take days, as Anne Arundel County fire officials try to determine how the massive fire started and whether or not the residents perished in the fire.

On Tuesday, some smoke still billowed from what remains of the 16,000-square-foot waterfront mansion, where Christie Ileto was learning the latest.

Fire officials say they haven't been able to get inside the 16,000-square-foot home, but heavy equipment is being brought in as a massive operation is underway --three-quarters of the home with 7-ton beams collapsed into its basement.

Its owners -- technology executive Don Pyle and his wife Sandy are still missing, along with four of their grandchildren. Childs Point Road is blocked off.

Anne Arundel County Fire spokesman Russ Davies said it could days to determine whether or not the six people unaccounted for were inside.

According to WJZ media partner The Baltimore Sun, a letter from the headmaster at the Severn School -- where the children attended -- said the Pyles and their four grandchildren perished in the fire.

"We do not declare anyone deceased until we know for sure and have recovered evidence that a person is deceased," a fire official Capt. Robert Howarth said Tuesday at the scene of the fire.

Authorities say there's no evidence of foul play, but they are not ruling it out either -- and they wouldn't comment if cameras inside the mansion would show anything that would help with their investigation.

"This is an active criminal investigation at this point. That does not mean that there has been a crime committed," Howarth said. "What that means is that we are processing evidence, we are processing the scene, and we are conducting ourselves in a manner, that should we discover that a crime has been committed, everything we've done up to that point is valid and sustainable in a court of law."

Investigators say the home, which was built nine years ago, was constructed before the sprinkler system requirements. They are not revealing anything into how the fire may have started -- and it won't even be safe to go inside the collapse shell of the mansion until Wednesday.

"For me to characterize this as an accident or as a criminal act, would be putting my opinion prior to the investigation, and I'm not going to put my opinion out there prior to the investigation without any evidence to support that opinion," Howarth said.

They are bringing experts from around the country to help with this, including a number of federal investigators who are still here on the scene. There are still some hot spots, where the fire is still burning and the smell of smoke is still in the air.

The fire, which began around 3:30 a.m. Monday morning, quickly ripped through the 7-bedroom, 7 1/2 bathroom home damaging floors and the roof so quickly, it was impossible for firefighters to conduct a search safely Monday.

Davies added that hot spots took another ten hours to extinguish before operations were scaled back around nightfall.

The mansion is so large, it's being treated as a commercial fire.

Don Pyle was named chief operating officer of ScienceLogic last fall. The company, based in Reston, Virginia, makes software for cloud computing.

Yama Habibzai, a spokesman for ScienceLogic, confirmed in an email to The Associated Press there was a fire at Pyle's home early Monday and that it's under investigation. He said the company had no further comment.

The fire was brought under control about three hours after it began. Some 85 firefighters had to be called in from several jurisdictions. Davies said because there was no fire hydrant in the area, firefighters shuttled water tankers to the site and stationed a fire boat at a pier near the property to bring in water.

According to a 2008 story in The Baltimore Sun, the Pyles' house, which was the site of a charity event, was described as looking like a castle, with mini-turrets, stonework and lion statues.

State property records said the two-story house was built in 2005 and was then listed at $4.2 million.

Two teddy bears and flowers now rest near the front gate and teary-eyed neighbors have stopped by.

The Severn School's lower school is closed Tuesday.

"Tomorrow will be the first of many opportunities we, as a School, will provide for our kids to come together, and I emphasize, if they feel the need to," Lagarde wrote in the letter to parents obtained by The Capital.

Davies said the cause of the fire was not yet determined.

"We have no witness who can tell us how this fire started," Howarth stated Tuesday.

"We still do not have 100% proof these people are in the house," he added.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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