Fire officials release report on cause of New London fire that killed former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

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Nicholas Rondinone, Hartford Courant
·2 min read
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New London fire officials released a report Tuesday that offered no definitive cause for the November blaze that killed former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, but pointed to candles, improperly discarded smoking materials, a propane heater or even a careless or intentional act sparking the fire.

“Through the course of this investigation the five investigators were not able to eliminate all the potential ignition sources and as a result have classified this fire as ‘Undetermined,’ New London Fire Marshal Vernon Skau said, in a written statement. “In the event that new information is learned this investigation can be reopened.”

The 19-page report follows two months of investigation into the fire at 500 Pequot Ave. on Nov. 18, 2020. In it, fire investigators wrote it is possible that Hsieh was intoxicated at the time of the fire, noting empty nitrous containers, a marijuana smoking pipe and a bottle of alcohol found near where Hsieh was recovered by firefighters.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Hsieh’s death an accident.

City officials said firefighters were called to the home about 3:30 a.m. and quickly learned that a person was trapped inside. More firefighters were called in as the victim was pulled from the home and given CPR.

Hsieh, 46, was first taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London before he was transferred by Life Star helicopter to Bridgeport Hospital. He died there on Nov. 27.

Police later said that first responders were told that Hsieh was locked in a storage area with smoke coming out of it, and that no one was able to get him out. Firefighters managed to force their way into the area, where they found Hsieh.

According to radio transmissions recorded by, firefighters reported within minutes that they had pulled an unresponsive person from the fire. They then quickly said the fire was knocked down.

City records show that the home was purchased last summer by Rachael Brown. A woman with that same name has been a longtime Zappos employee, first joining the company in 2004 when it was only 100 people.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has described Brown as a close associate of Hsieh’s who lived in Las Vegas.

Hsieh, a well-known fixture in Las Vegas, was mourned by elected and business leaders alike with notable statements from the mayor of Las Vegas, governor of Nevada and Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.

Nicholas Rondinone can be reached at