STAMFORD, Conn. – A fire tore through the home of an advertising executive in a tony neighborhood along the Connecticut shoreline Sunday, killing her three children and both of her parents on Christmas morning.
Madonna Badger, who bought the large Victorian home last year, was able to get out of the house, along with an acquaintance.
Stamford Police Sgt. Paul Guzda said Badger's three daughters -- a 10-year-old and 7-year-old twins -- were killed. He said her parents, who were visiting for the holiday, also died. Police officers drove Badger's husband, Matthew Badger, from New York City to Stamford on Sunday morning.
Guzda said the male acquaintance was a contractor who was doing work on the home. Badger, an ad executive in the fashion industry, is the founder of Badger & Winters Group. A supervisor at Stamford Hospital said she was treated and discharged.
Neighbors awakened to the sound of screaming and rushed outside to help, but they could only watch in horror as flames devoured the grand home in the pre-dawn darkness and the shocked, injured survivors were led away from the house.
"It is a terrible, terrible day," Mayor Michael Pavia told reporters at a news briefing at the scene of the fire. "There probably has not been a worse Christmas day in the city of Stamford."
The fire was reported shortly before 5 a.m. Firefighters were able to rescue Badger and another adult from the house in Shippan Point, a neighborhood that juts into Long Island Sound, Acting Fire Chief Antonio Conte said.
"We had our hands full from the moment we arrived on the scene," he said.
Firefighters knew there were other people in the home but could not get to them because the flames were too large and the heat too intense, Conte said, his voice cracking with emotion.
"It's never easy. That's for sure," he said. "I've been on this job 38 years ... not an easy day."
Conte said fire officials don't yet know the cause of the blaze and likely won't get clues for a few days until fire marshals can enter the structure.
By Sunday evening, the roof of the blackened house had largely collapsed. A spokesman for Stamford Hospital said one of the survivors was listed in fair condition; he did not know the condition of the other.
A neighbor, Sam Cingari Jr., said he was awakened by the sound of screaming and saw that the house was engulfed by flames.
"We heard this screaming at 5 in the morning," he said. "The whole house was ablaze and I mean ablaze."
Cingari said he did not know his neighbors, who he said bought the house last year and were renovating it.
The 3,349-square foot, five-bedroom home sold for $1.7 million in December 2010, according to the Stamford assessment office's website.
Charles Mangano, who lives nearby, said his wife woke him up and alerted him to the fire. He ran outside to see if he could help.
"I heard someone yell `Help, help, help me!' and I started sprinting up my driveway," Mangano told The Advocate of Stamford. There were already numerous firetrucks on the scene.
"I just came out as neighbor," Mangano said. "There's really nothing I could do."
He told the newspaper he saw a barefoot man wearing boxers and a woman being taken out of the house. The outdoor temperature at the time was below freezing, according to the National Weather Service.
The woman said, "My whole life is in there," Mangano said. "They were both obviously in a state of shock."
Stamford, a city of 117,000 residents, is about 25 miles northeast of New York City.
"Our heart goes out to the family and friends of these people as well as the firefighters and emergency medical people, (police), and all that were on the scene and are frankly suffering as a result," Pavia said. "We hope they find peace soon."