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Wake held for victims in Carmel fire

May 4, 2012 4:01:53 AM PDT
A wake was held Thursday for the four members of a family who died in a fire in Putnam County.

The fire in Carmel early Tuesday destroyed the home of Larchmont police Captain Thomas Sullivan.

Sullivan, his wife Donna and his daughters, 18-year-old Meaghan and 13-year-old Mairead, died in the blaze. Their 20-year-old son escaped the flames.

All the victims died from breathing smoke and carbon monoxide as their home was consumed by fire, a coroner said Wednesday.

The fire likely started in the front porch area, although authorities still do not know what sparked it.

It is the question on a lot of people's minds. Tuesday's fire was so intense, and spread so fast, part of the investigation has focused on the home's construction.

The house had a truss roof, in which beams are held together by plates that can pop off once the wood begins to burn. Plywood and other pressed board contain glue, which burns easily. The open design allows flames to spread. Still, lightweight construction is commonly used. At another work site, we found sections of truss roofing are stacked up and ready to go. The pre-fabricated materials are popular for two big reasons: cost savings and speed.

But as much as developers like it, the firefighting community hates truss construction. In Yonkers, the fire department keeps track of new projects to see if lightweight construction is being used. The commissioner says the design puts first responders at risk because of the likelihood of a collapse in just a matter of minutes.

The design does meet building codes ,which are set by the state, but the Putnam County executive, who worked in real estate and knows all about the construction boom of the 90s, says it might be time to re-examine lightweight construction codes.

A funeral for the victims is planned for Saturday morning at St. James the Apostle Church in Carmel.

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