Officials said they are unable to determine what caused a deadly Baltimore house fire in that killed six children and left four others injured in January, and have stopped their investigation.
At a Thursday news conference, Baltimore City Fire Chief Niles R. Ford said the department is "suspending its investigation and is listing the fire's cause as undetermined."
Baltimore fire officials said they had done months of what they called an intensive and comprehensive investigation and found the cause of the fire is undetermined.
"We are unable to ascertain the cause or origin of the fire," Ford said.
The fire broke out early on the morning of Jan. 12 along Springwood Avenue in Northeast Baltimore at a three-story single-family home where Katie Malone and her family lived. Malone worked for U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) for almost 11 years as a special assistant in his Catonsville office. She and three of her children were able to escape.
On the day of the fire, heavy flames shot from the home, and hours later firefighters combed through the burned rubble by hand and used a cadaver-sniffing dog to find the six children's bodies. The children who died in the fire ranged in age from 11 to an infant found in a crib on the first floor.
The children's father, Bill Malone, was at work when the fire started, officials have said. The father also told fire officials that there was a smoke detector in the house and that he had recently changed the batteries.
The fire was so intense that the roof caved in and the floors collapsed. Neighbors said it became so hot that they felt the heat through their windows, and it heat caused pieces of cars parked nearby to melt.
Firefighters got to the scene three minutes after the first dispatch from 911, officials had said. But when they arrived, floors of the home were already starting to fall and that made it hard for them to get inside.
When Ford, the fire chief, arrived at the scene that day, the fire was nearly extinguished. Several firefighters were on bended knee.
"They said, 'Chief, we did all we could,' " Ford said that day.
Ford said that authorities "went in there with a passion of believing that we would find the cause," according to the Baltimore Sun. He said they "wanted to be as thorough as we could."
But he said the fire spread so fast that firefighters couldn't even tell if it began outside or inside the home.
Ford said investigators had "no reason to believe" the fire was intentionally set, according to the Sun.
On Thursday, Ford called the incident a tragedy that was "shocking and heartbreaking to everyone across the city and nation."
A spokeswoman for the department, Blair Adams, said Thursday that there are no plans to reopen the investigation.
The Malone family issued a statement Thursday thanking the firefighters.
"We are grateful for the support we have received from the entire community in the past few months," it said, according to the Baltimore Sun. "Though it has been difficult, we are slowly recovering and will always remember the love we have received."
The house has been torn down and is now an empty lot.
Baltimore has had several fire tragedies in recent years. The Baltimore Sun said in December the city had twice the number of fire deaths compared with the previous year.
Dan Morse and Lynh Bui contributed to this report.