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As the investigation into the fatal house fire that took the lives of fashion-advertising executive Madonna Badger‘s three children and parents on Christmas Day continues, new details have emerged identifying the cause behind the blaze.
Stamford, Conn., fire marshals said foul play was not a factor, but two large safety errors did contribute to the terrible tragedy: There were no working fire alarms, and still-smoking embers were removed from the fireplace and put in a bag, which is now believed to have caught fire.
Fire marshals have revealed that one of the house’s occupants, contractor Michael Borcino, who is now being described as Badger’s boyfriend, put still-live embers from the fireplace into a bag around 3 a.m. and placed it in either the house’s mud room, or against its exterior wall, reports the New York Times.
When the wall caught fire, the home’s seven occupants had no warning because the house, which was undergoing renovations, did not have functioning smoke detectors.
According to the Associated Press, city official Ernie Orgera said a new “hardwired” smoke detection system was in the process of being installed in the five-bedroom home, which was built in 1895.
Firefighters found Badger on a second-floor scaffold when they were called to the scene at 4:52 a.m. Stamford fire chief Antonio J. Conte said that after she was rescued, Badger directed the firefighters to the $1.7 million house’s third floor, where she said her three children, Lily, 10, and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah, were sleeping.
According to Borcino, he tried to take two of the girls with him as he fled the house, but at some point they turned around and went back inside.
“You have to realize with the amount of heat and smoke how scared those children must have been,” Chief Conte told the Times, “and they just left him.”
One of the daughter’s bodies was found on the third floor, while the second seemed to have located her grandmother, Pauline Johnson. Their bodies were found on the stairs between the second and third floors.
Badger’s father, Lomer Johnson, who had dressed as Santa at Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store in NYC the day before, seems to have been trying to help his third granddaughter escape according to Conte. Her body was found near the window of a back bedroom sitting on a stack of books. However, according to the Times, Johnson fell through the room’s rafters before he could rescue the girl.
Borcino remains in Stamford Hospital, where he is being treated for smoke inhalation and burns and has had only preliminary interviews with officials.
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