Mr. Poe claims the fire killed both the Baudelaire parents (Bertrand and Beatrice), although there is no mention of their bodies being found, leaving the Baudelaire children to later suspect one of them may be alive.
The three Baudelaire children were not home at the time and thus escaped the fire. They were encouraged by their parents to go to Briny Beach that day. If the Baudelaire parents were aware that the fire would occur, they were unable - or chose not - to save themselves, despite the mansion having a secret passage way to 667 Dark Avenue.
Page 13 of the Snicket File state that "experts now suspect that there may in fact be one survivor of the fire". However, it is not stated which "fire" the page refers to. The Baudelaire children initially believed that the file referred to the fire that consumed their house because the page also had a photo of their parents and had been filed under "Baudelaire". Quigley Quagmire believes that the sentence is referring to his survival of the fire which destroyed his own home and killed his parents. Neither theory is ever confirmed.
It is unclear if Kit Snicket was aware of the Snicket File, but she believed the Baudelaire parents to be dead since she refers to the Baudelaire children "losing their parents." The Bad Beginning: Rare Edition makes reference to a survivor of a fire hiding within the City's Fountain of Victorious Finance, but it does not confirm the individual's identity.
The precise cause of the fire has never been established and no one was ever charged for setting it, but Count Olaf is suspected. Olaf has a history of starting similar fires and admits to being guilty of "arson." His possible motives include getting the Baudelaire fortune and taking revenge on Beatrice and Bertrand Baudelaire for murdering his own parents a few years earlier. However, in The End, Olaf seemed to deny his involvement; when Klaus accused him of starting the fire, he only answered, "Is that what you think?" after a long pause. In the film, Olaf's tower has a magnifying glass which can set fire from the distance and has a view of the Baudelaire Mansion, although this only applies to the film canon.
It is also possible that another member of the fire-starting side of V.F.D. is responsible. In the TV series, a fashionable woman, speculated to be Esmé Squalor, is seen setting the Quagmire Mansion on fire. Esmé held a grudge against Beatrice, saying, "I want to steal from you the way Beatrice stole from me." This has led fans to theorize that Esmé is responsible.
Another possibility is that the fire was pure accident instead of arson, as the Baudelaires are shown to have extremely bad luck.