A contractor who took the blame for accidentally starting a 2011 Christmas Day house fire that killed his girlfriend's three children and her parents now says she's the one who left a bag of fireplace ashes in a mudroom.

Michael Borcina told attorneys during a lawsuit deposition that he lied to police to protect his girlfriend and the children's mother, Madonna Badger, The Hartford Courant reported.

"To spare her from carrying the burden that maybe she had done something to hurt her family," Borcina said in the deposition.

Borcina originally told authorities he put the ashes in the room. He later agreed to pay $5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the children's father, Matthew Badger.

Matthew Badger's claims against several subcontractors and their insurance carriers remain active, and the deposition was part of those lawsuits. Matthew Badger and Madonna Badger also still have separate lawsuits pending against the city.

Madonna Badger, an advertising executive in New York, and Borcina were dating at the time and escaped the fire, which killed 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger, 9-year-old Lily Badger and their maternal grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson.

Authorities said the fire began in the fireplace ashes, which were left in a bin in the mudroom in the Stamford house. Borcina, who was renovating the $1.7 million Victorian home, was accused in the lawsuit of contributing with other defendants to make the house a "firetrap," including failing to install smoke detectors during construction.

A lawyer for Borcina didn't return a message seeking comment on Monday. A phone listing for Borcina could not be found. Matthew Badger and Madonna Badger did not return messages seeking comment.

Madonna Badger has said Borcina ran his hands over the ashes to make sure they were out before putting the bag in the bin in the mudroom, just before they went to sleep after wrapping presents early on Christmas morning. She has since said she believes the blaze may have been electrical in origin.

She has alleged city officials intentionally destroyed evidence when they demolished the home without notice shortly after the fire. City officials have denied that.

Borcina also said in a deposition taken by lawyers for an electrical subcontractor that he hasn't talked to Madonna Badger since six months after the fire and that she removed records about the renovation project from his computers without his permission.