Fire officials released new information Tuesday that outlines the heart wrenching details leading up to a fire that claimed the lives of advertising executive Madonna Badger’s parents and three young daughters early Christmas morning in Stamford, CT.Ruling out foul play, Chief Fire Marshall Barry Callahan confirmed that the fire was sparked by discarded embers from a Yuletide log.
Between the hours of 3 and 3:30 a.m. Sunday, Badger’s boyfriend, Michael Borcina, threw away the ashes of a Christmas Eve fire at the rear of the house, close to a newly constructed mud room. Borcina, a contractor, had been renovating Badger’s $1.7 million, three-story house, which was engulfed in flames before 5 a.m. Christmas morning.
Officials also discussed the numerous failed attempts to save Lily, 9, and Grace and Sarah, 7-year-old twins.
Badger, 47, tried to reenter the burning house but couldn’t due to the flames. She yelled out the location of her children’s rooms to firefighters. Borcina, who also survived the inferno, went back inside the building to lead two children down from the third floor, but the girls ran off to separate parts of the house to avoid smoky chaos.
Grandfather Lomer Johnson, 71, who had grown out a full white beard since retiring in 2000 to work as a professional Santa Claus, died while trying to save his grandchildren. One child perished close to a stack of books placed next to a second-floor bedroom window that Johnson had constructed to enable her escape. Another body was found next to that of her grandmother, Pauline, close to the front of the house.
Multiple professional rescue attempts proved futile and left four firefighters injured. One fire captain suffered second-degree burns on his face.
According to Southbury Patch, Acting Fire Chief Anthony Conte told reporters Tuesday, “After 37, 38 years on the job, you’re never prepared for anything like this.”
“I had to recall 70 firefighters today for debriefing, and most of them broke down.”
Officials were not able to confirm if the house had working firing alarms or whether family members were sleeping on the second floor of the house, which would have been barred due to ongoing renovations without a permit.
Badger is the founder of Badger and Winters, a branding consulting firm in the fashion industry. She is credited for spearheading the famous 1990’s Calvin Klein campaign that featured Mark Wahlberg.