Published December 27, 2011
STAMFORD, Conn. – The fatal Connecticut fire that killed a fashion-marketing executive's three children and parents was possibly sparked by embers from disposed fireplace ashes, the New York Post has learned.
The ashes from the family's Christmas Eve yule log may have been still smoldering when they were left outside the 100-year-old, $1.7 million, Long Island Sound-view Victorian, a source said.
The wind may have blown the embers into the old, wooden building, sparking the Christmas morning blaze.
Madonna Badger, 47, a founding partner of the top-tier branding firm Badger & Winters, and a male friend were the only ones to escape the furious 5:00am fire, which gutted the waterfront Victorian home in Stamford.
Her 10-year-old daughter, Lily, and seven-year-old twins, Sarah and Grace, died in the inferno, according to a relative who did not want to be identified.
Badger's parents, who were visiting from Southbury, Long Island, also died, cops said. Public records identify them as Lomer and Pauline Johnson.
"My whole life is in there," Badger sobbed as emergency responders led her away from the flame-filled home.
The already tragic story took another heartbreaking twist Monday as details emerged about how the oldest victim, Lomer Johnson, of Southbury, Conn., -- a retiree who worked as jolly St. Nick -- tried in vain to save his granddaughter.
"He had the little girl with him," Stamford Fire Chief Antonio Conte told reporters.
Of the seven in the house, only Badger and her companion, contractor Michael Borcina, survived the blaze.
Initially hospitalized after the blaze, she was later released and transferred to an undisclosed location. She looked devastated as she briefly emerged from the hospital.
Borcina, the head of Tiberias Construction in Manhattan who was doing the renovation work on the house, remains in stable condition at a local hospital.
Firefighters said Borcina and Badger were both trying desperately to re-enter the house when they arrived and had to be restrained.
Badger had moved to the mansion with her girls from Manhattan at Thanksgiving 2010 and is estranged from her husband, the girls' father, Matthew Badger.
The mansion's charred remains -- deemed a safety hazard -- were razed by the city Monday at the conclusion of an on-site investigation and the removal of the bodies.
Stamford officials are expected to reveal the cause of the fire and other details -- including whether the family had working smoke detectors, or whether the on-going renovations somehow abetted the flames -- at a press conference Tuesday.
A relative of Matthew Badger said he was "absolutely distraught." He was at home in New York when the blaze broke out, and rushed to Stamford, according to cops.
Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia called it "a terrible, terrible day."