Home Technology Fireplace That Killed Hsieh Could Have Been Carelessness or Intentional, Officers Say

Fireplace That Killed Hsieh Could Have Been Carelessness or Intentional, Officers Say


Zappos was a star of the early consumer internet, helping convince the wary that buying online held few perils. Mr. Hsieh became chief executive in 2001 and functioned as chief spokesman for the notion that companies should, like Zappos, try to make their customers as well as their employees happy. Amazon bought Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009. The next year, Mr. Hsieh published “Delivering Happiness,” a best seller.

He turned his attention to a civic project to revitalize downtown Las Vegas, not far from Zappos headquarters. In the last year or so, Mr. Hsieh concentrated on Park City, Utah, where he spent tens of millions of dollars buying properties and became so manic that friends said they had discussed an intervention.

On the night of the fire, several friends and Mr. Hsieh’s brother Andrew were in the house, according to the report. The house was owned by Rachael Brown, a longtime Zappos employee. She did not return calls seeking comment for this article.

Firefighters were regular visitors to the house in mid-November.

On Nov. 16, they were summoned at 1 a.m. by a smoke detector that was wired into a security company. A man who answered the door said the alarm had been set off by cooking, according to department records.

The firefighters left but returned minutes later, prompted by another smoke detector. “On arrival found nothing showing and a male stating again that there was no problem,” Lt. Timothy O’Reilly wrote in a summary of the call. Firefighters said they had entered to take a look around.

Lieutenant O’Reilly and his colleagues found smoke in the finished basement, along with “melted plastic items on the stove-top along with cardboard that was hot to the touch.” They also found a candle burning in “an unsafe location” and extinguished it. While the smoke in the basement dissipated, the firefighters offered fire safety tips.

The investigators’ report also recounted an episode early in the evening of Nov. 18. A friend checked on Mr. Hsieh in the shed and noticed a candle had fallen over and was burning his blanket. He asked Mr. Hsieh to put out the flame, and the entrepreneur did.



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