Officials in Stamford, Conn., said the Christmas Day fire that killed the family of fashion advertising executive Madonna Badger was apparently caused by embers from a fireplace that had been taken to a mudroom or trash enclosure.
The fire at Badger’s Victorian home in the upscale suburban town killed her three children — twin seven-year-old girls Grace and Sarah and their 10-year-old sister, Lily — as well as her parents, Pauline and Lomer Johnson.
Stamford officials said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that portions of the home were in the middle of being renovated and should not have been occupied.
“They should not have been in the home,” said Ernie Orgera, the director of operations for the town.
Orgera said there was a hard-wired fire alarm system that would have notified fire officials in the event of a blaze, but it does not appear that it was connected. Orgera said it was not clear whether the home had battery-operated smoke detectors. The family was apparently asleep when the fire broke out, and several bedrooms appear to have been on the second floor, where renovations were taking place.
“Ms. Badger was out a window,” said an official, adding that her bedroom was on the side of the house opposite the children’s and had a flat roof outside the window, where she apparently escaped. “When the crews arrived on the scene, the male occupant was down on the ground. He was trying to gain entry into the house.”
Michael Borcina, described as a friend of Badger’s and a contractor who was overseeing the renovations to the house, jumped out of the building and told firefighters that he had led the children down to the second floor. However, the heat of the blaze had apparently driven the children and grandparents back up to the third floor.
Lomer Johnson, 71, who had spent the day before playing Santa Claus at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan, apparently died trying to save one of his granddaughters. His body was found face down, apparently after stepping out a window onto a temporary structure put up as part of the renovation, officials said.
Badger, a fashion advertising executive, founded the branding and creative services firm Badger & Winters Group in 1994. Prior to that, she made a name for herself at Calvin Klein’s in-house CRK agency, where, as senior art director, she played a key role in the designer’s campaigns with Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss and his launch of the CK One fragrance.
According to the Badger & Winters Web site, the firm has worked with clients such as Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Chanel, 5S Shiseido, Adidas, A|X Armani Exchange, BCBG Girls, The Limited, Perricone MD, Rochas and Zac Posen.
Officials said due to the circumstances, personal interviews had not yet been conducted with Badger and Borcina, which could help to clarify some details of the tragedy.