- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2015

An executive at ScienceLogic, a company used to monitor the online networks of the FBI and the Department of Defense, among others, were missing Monday after a four-alarm fire destroyed his 16,000-square-foot Annapolis home.

Don Pyle, the chief operating officer at the Reston-based technology provider, and his wife Sandy, couldn’t be located, authorities said Monday. It took 85 firefighters nearly three-and-a-half hours to get the blaze under control and firefighters had yet to set foot inside the building, uncertain about its integrity, Monday afternoon.

Neighbors told The Washington Times the Pyles’ grandchildren may have been staying with them for the long holiday weekend. Mr. Pyle’s family confirmed they believed six people were unaccounted for, but did not give any indication of ages or whether any of the children were missing. Anne Arundel County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Russ Davies said the family had been to view the scene of the fire Monday morning.

Arson hasn’t been ruled out, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been called in to investigate.

ScienceLogic has multiple contracts with government agencies, and is best known for its software that scans online networks to ensure they run efficiently. Before joining the firm in October, Mr. Pyle, 55, served as the chief executive officer of several other information technology companies. He was CEO at Netcordia, an IT company the National Security Agency and U.S. Army contracted with to manage their online networks, and Laurel Networks, which specializes in routers for telecommunications clients.

“There was a fire at his home last night and the case is under investigation,” said ScienceLogic representative Yama Habibzai, who declined further comment.

Calls to phone numbers associated with Mr. Pyle and Mrs. Pyle were not returned Monday. Several of the numbers reached automated messages that said the call could not be completed.

The first crews to respond to the fire attempted to enter the house, but were turned back by the intense flames and floors of the building that began to collapse, Capt. Davies said.

“You’re looking at several layers which are fire damaged and have fallen into the basement, so it’s going to be a slow meticulous process to get in and start to do a search,” he said. Capt. Davies said it would likely be Tuesday before fire crews were able to determine if the building was occupied.

Capt. Davies said there did not appear to be any foul play involved, but that the investigation was ongoing and that officials would not rule anything out.

David Cheplak, spokesman for the Baltimore field division of the ATF, said agency fire experts responded to the scene at the request of Anne Arundel County officials, not due to any suspicion of arson.

“There wasn’t any indication of any crime or any arson per say, at least preliminary; it was just based on the size of the structure and possible loss of life,” he said.

The ATF’s national response fire investigation team is set to arrive on the scene Tuesday, Mr. Cheplak said, and will begin sifting through the rubble and debris.

“If there was an incendiary device or some kind of accelerant, it’ll be pretty easy for them to tell,” he said. “They’ll be able to determine specifically where the fire started, how it spread, was an accelerant used or was it simply a spark from something gone bad?”

Earlier in his career, Mr. Pyle rose to prominence at Juniper Networks, helping to grow the company from a start-up to $1 billion in sales, according to a ScienceLogic press release announcing his hiring last fall.

“I was looking for an industry that was in its infancy and something that would have growth potential,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post last year. “I was able to get in on the ground floor in some of the companies that were based in Silicon Valley. I sold both hardware and software components that control the infrastructure of the Internet.”

News archives show the Pyles hosted charity events at their home, including one with baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr.

A family friend, who declined to give his name to The Washington Times, described the Pyles as welcoming and friendly. Two women who declined to speak to the press left a bouquet of flowers and a teddy bear at the Pyles’ front gate.

The gates to the driveway of the mansion had two signs warning visitors of dogs living on the property, but Capt. Davies said no dogs had been accounted for.

Capt. Davies said the fire started around 3:30 a.m. when the fire department received a call from an alarm monitoring company, then received another call from a neighbor that saw flames.

The upper two floors of the house had almost completely collapsed into the basement, Capt. Davies said, slowing down work even further.

“This is one of the largest home fires in the county’s history,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said. “The loss here is just devastating. … At this point we are praying there is no loss of life.”

Capt. Davies said the largest problem facing firefighters was the lack of access to the municipal water supply. There were no fire hydrants nearby, and officials had to bring their own water to fight the fire.

“We have to create our own water source,” he said. “Initially that was started off by using tankers, and a shuttle and a large supply line, and transition into what we have in place now which is a fire boat, tying the fire boat up to the pier and pumping out of the creek.”

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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