Stamford Fire Officials Provide Chilling Details Of Christmas Day Blaze

STAMFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — The deadly Christmas Day blaze that killed three children and their grandparents was caused by embers from a fireplace that had been taken to a mudroom or trash enclosure on the first floor, fire officials said Tuesday afternoon.

The fire at the home of Madonna Badger killed her parents and three children. The family was apparently sleeping in the home, and several bedrooms appear to have been on the second floor, where renovations were taking place.

“The area of origin was determined to have been on the 1st floor, rear corner of the house in the immediate area of a mudroom and trash bin enclosure.  The fire appears to have been cause by hot fireplace ash and embers, which had been discarded in this area,” Stamford Chief Fire Marshal, Barry Callahan, said.

Michael Borcina 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.

“After 37 and a half, 38 years on the job, you’re never prepared for anything like that,” said Acting Fire Chief Antonio Conte. “Can you be prepared for this? No. Is it our job to do something? Yes.”

Lomer Johnson, 71, 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. The temporary structure couldn’t support his weight.

Inside the second-floor window, officials found a stack of books and one of the children.

“It appears that he either was trying to get to his granddaughter from the outside or that he was leading his granddaughter out,” Mayor Michael Pavia said.

Conte said 47-year-old Badger was screaming for her kids and told responding firefighters the bedrooms the kids were in.

Firefighters scrambled up to the to the third floor in an effort to save the trapped victims. However, the heat and flames were too intense, and the kids weren’t in the rooms when firefighters arrived there. They made another attempt to rescue the kids, but again to no avail.

One fire captain suffered second-degree burns on his face and two other firefighters suffered from smoke inhalation, officials said.

Audio of a number 911 calls regarding the fire was also released.

LISTEN: Stamford Fire 911 Calls

“There’s a huge fire at the house next door to us. The whole house is on fire,” says one caller.”There’s three kids and a woman,” the caller adds, before her call was cut off.

Officials said portions of the home were in the middle of being renovated and should not have been occupied.

“The house was under construction. And until it was fully occupied, our buildings department will issue a certificate of approval for a resident to be in there. And until that time, we did not do a final inspection. We were not called for a final inspection of the premises,” said Ernie Orgera, the Director of Operations for Stamford. “They should not have been in the home unless they had a certificate of approval.”

Orgera said there was a hardwired fire alarm system that would’ve notified Stamford in the event of a fire, but it does not appear that it was connected. Orgera said it was not clear whether or not the home had battery operated smoke detectors.

“I can’t imagine waking up one day and having my children and my parents dead in one swoop like that,” said Stamford resident Tom Olson. “I don’t think I even understand the depth of that pain.”

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell In Stamford

madonnabadger Stamford Fire Officials Provide Chilling Details Of Christmas Day Blaze

Madonna Badger (credit:

The bodies of Badger’s three daughters and their grandparents were found on the upper floors.

Conte says it will be some time before his firefighters overcome their own grief.

“Everyone has very young children, this is a very young department,” Conte told CBS 2’s Jay Dow. “[It’s] probably their first fatal fire that they have seen. We’re going to evaluate them today and I’m pretty sure a lot of them are going to need counseling for a very long time.”

A Facebook page has been set up to express support for the Badger family. Click here for more information.

michael borcina Stamford Fire Officials Provide Chilling Details Of Christmas Day Blaze

Michael Borcina (credit: Facebook)

Lomer Johnson spent his retirement working as a Santa Claus. He had a long career working as a safety chief at a liquor company in Kentucky before he retired.

Johnson and his wife Pauline lived in Southbury, Conn., but were staying with their daughter and grandchildren for Christmas.

stamfordvictims Stamford Fire Officials Provide Chilling Details Of Christmas Day Blaze

Lomer Johnson as Santa Claus, with his wife Paula, standing, and three grandchildren. All died in a blaze on Christmas Day, 2011. (credit:

“Pauline was very outgoing,” said neighbor Barbara Jeffery. “Very vivacious, loving. A great friend.”

The day before he died, Lomer Johnson was in costume and greeting children as Santa at the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Midtown.

The home was torn down on Monday after fire officials deemed it unsafe.

Stamford’s fire department is currently offering grief counseling for those who were on the scene.

Please share your thoughts below…

  • Deborah Jeffries

    Dumps burning embers in bag (not bucket ), no smoke detectors and home was not approved for occupancy.

    Criminally negligent homicide but no charges will be filed?

    The law has penalties for grossly negligent acts that result in death.

    This case would be a slam dunk for any prosecutor.

  • Rodin

    You have been heavily censoring these comments. Too many have “disappeared”. Why?

  • propmgr34

    Where does it say the firefighters were drunk? That’s what I thought. Keep your stupid comments to yourself.

  • ace11

    From what i read the women was having an affair with the Contractor

    Maybe it was arson

    It’s sad that these people died due to carelessness?

  • Lynnek

    Even though it was a tragic accident, mom will never get over this. Embers in trash, no smoke alarms, living in a home that appears not to have been fully habitable. We all make simple mistakes but the guilt will haunt her forever. So sorry for her.

  • Brad

    why was the house torn down so fast? it takes insurance investigators at least 2 days to do their own investigation. There was no danger to the community, the house was surrounded by a media circus and shrine to the victims, they didn’t have to worry about trespassers… they didn’t even let the family salvage any personal items.

    • mary miller

      True….I see houses they were totaled by a fire…they stay up for months before they are torn down!

  • Cindy

    Wow, how nice of you. The woman is not supposed to have a life. She is entitled to have a relationship, that is not what caused the fire. It was a terrbile accident. Perhaps, you could try to remember the lives lost and get your mind out of the gutter.

    • Rodin

      It’ll never happen. Trash is trash. The gutter is home. Don’t even bother. What’s really pathetic is that these two, probably the same person (‘Blackie Joe’ can’t even fake ignorance), aren’t even trashing seriously, just joking around to get a rise out of caring people like yourself.

  • cindy

    Blackie Joe,

    Maybe, you need to learn english; both speaking it and writinig it before you make ingnorant remarks. These were human beings who died, color does not matter. How to improve your life is to better yourself and people will respect you. There is help out there if you are willing to accept it. There is no need to be so hateful and bitter. Stop blaming the white man for your problems. Those days are over. Equal rights for all, it’s there for the taking, if you don’t it’s your problem so stop blaming other people for your troubles.
    Grow up and taking responsiblity and be caring to those who are less fortunate than yourself. These people may have money but, that won’t bring back those children.

  • Brooklyn Bombers

    It looks to me that the biggest mistakle was whoever made the idiotic decision to put hot fireplace embers in a bag! I have had fireplaces all of my life and I have never heard of anyone doing something so ignorant.

    • Regina

      Believe it or not, it happens more than you know!

    • China Doll

      You are rude. Case closed. Nobody said anything about it being put in a bag.

      Nothing more for you to see here…move on…..

      • DanTe

        You are dumb. The better news services describes the sheer stupidity that led to this. Insurance payments maybe?

        • China Doll

          No, just a very common household mistake gone awry. People need to stop making it more than it is. People make this same mistake everyday.

          • Rodin

            You don’t know DaunTed. He makes the best of everything!

            • Rodin

              BUT I LOVE HIS TOOL

  • Bullett

    Two non reversible errors here. One, no smoke detectors, even if they were battery operated. Secondly, going to bed and leaving an unattended fireplace burning.

    • China Doll

      Does ANYBODY bother to read the articles? Nobody left an unattended fireplace burning. As a matter of fact, they cleaned out the ashes from the fireplace and put them in a bucket in the mudroom or trash receptacle at the back of the house at around 3AM, after wrapping presents and putting the finishing touches on Christmas (per other articles).

      • LynneK

        Putting burning embers in the trash is what stated the fire. Hot ashes should NEVER be put in a bin with other trash. better to have left it in the fireplace.

        • China Doll

          Okay, but to clarify, it doesn’t say the embers were put IN the trash bin. It says they were left “in the immediate area of” the mudroom and trash bin enclosure. Seeing as we don’t have a physical floor plan of the house or photos, there’s no way for us to determine what those trash bin enclosures were made of or whether there was some reasoning involved that would make a person believe it was safe to put them out there….

  • Eileen

    Let’s pray for this dear family. The lady must be devastated.

    • Rodin

      “[God] hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine.”
      ~ C. S. LEWIS

  • kevin

    why did they demolish this house before further forensic evidence was collected? who is Borcina and what did he have to do with this? he did not have an updated contractor license? there will be no charges? sounds pretty fishy to me

    • Terry Woebegone

      Yeah, who are they protecting? Like when Rhino plowed Waco under to cover up what really happened with the ATF. All Fire Marshall Bill had to say was get smoke detectors.

  • Cinderella

    Rich white people burn in house fire. Media goes nuts, descends like vultures. CBS pre-empts Judge Judy. Exploitative, exploitative, exploitative,

    Poor dark-skinned people die in a fire? Business goes on as usual.

    • Cindy

      Hey Cinderella,
      Instead of hoping that Prince Charming will rescue you from watching Judge Judy perhaps, you should develop a heart. This is about 5 people who died tragically, 3 of whom are children and all you can think about is that it interrupted Judge Judy? Then you have the audacity to make it racial by saying no one would care if they were dark skinned people.

      I am a white person, and I would care very much, no matter what the color of those children’s skin was. Maybe, It’s you who should look in yourself to see if YOU are the one who does not care. Shame on you. You are a bitter, prejudice fool!
      Go back to watching Judge Judy sounds like you don’t work anyway or do anything meaningful except make racial comments.

      • Vee

        Wow, a bit defensive, aren’t we? Cindy, although the knee-jerk response of yourself & many others is to scream “It’s not about race!!!!” and promptly jam your heads into the sand, the fact is that the media DOES pay different amounts of attention to victims based on race, income, etc. Get mad & be in denial all you want; it is what it is. All deadly fires are tragic and sadly, you hear seconds-long sound bites about them all the time (right before they move on to sports) when you turn on the news–but to see the media coverage over the Badger fire, one would think it was the first & only one, ever. The sad truth is, if Madonna Badger weren’t a wealthy, millionaire ad exec, newsmakers wouldn’t give a damn. She’d be like one of the tragic, nameless fire victims you hear about for five seconds throughout the tri-state area’s inner cities.

        And then you made the comment about the poster probably “not working” because she watches Judge Judy? Yeah, real classy. In that case, I guess I can assume you also avoid employment like the plague so that you can spend all your time being defensive on message boards, yes?



    • Maggie

      She was separated from her husband for 3 years. Who cares if they were having an affair? Does that make this any less
      What a petty, jealous person you are.

  • Steven

    some of us seem to know exactly what we would do in that situation, sitting behind our computers and NOT BEING IN THAT SITUATION. The mind works much differently when actually IN THAT SITUATION. I can’t even imagine what the mom is going through right now, no need to make it worse – she will be questioning herself for ever, even though nothing more could have been done.

  • susan

    this is a very sad story and making comments about what should or should not have been done by the mother is inappropriate..ask any firefighter and you will be told all fires are different and all rescues are difficult and sometimes impossible depending upon the location of the victims..i really doubt the woman just ran out the door without a care about her parents or her children..she was probably unable to get to them herself..may they rest in peace…

  • jeni

    You should be ashamed of yourself and pray one day that this kind of loss doesn’t fall on your own shoulders.

  • Devenio

    Have you no understanding? This ignorant fool is not a follower of Islam. Forum moderator, please delete this fool.

  • Vik

    How does someone leave a house without her children? You keep your A$$ in that house until you have all your children with you and then leave the house. You don’t run out with your bed mate!! Sorry — this one is a tough one to swallow. Three precious children – gone!

    • cindy

      How could you say something like that? You have no idea what was going on in that poor mother’s head. Maybe, she thought somehow that they got out, you don’t know. It’s not right to make judgements unless you have ever been in that position. I just can’t imagine losing my whole family like that. I am sure she will be second guessing herself about everything that happened that night before and day she doesn’t need comments from the peanut gallery. I pray that she has the strength to go on.

    • Rodin

      You haven’t been following the story. I suggest you look elsewhere. Much more is available.

    • Devenio

      When you are put in that situation, you can say what you should or shouldn’t do. Until then, you have no idea what went on. Could it be possible they couldn’t get to their kids by the normal route? Condolences to the family. Too much loss at one time.

      • LynneK

        What is interesting is the contractor risked life and limb combing the burning house looking for the kids. She went out the window. I applaud that guy.

        • Vik

          Yeah, he risked life and limb after that stupid p.o.s. put smoldering embers in a bag and left it inside the house so it could burn the house and everyone in it. No certificate of occupancy. And no smoke detectors. And he’s a building contractor?! Hope the guilt haunts him forever.



  • Ellen

    Hello, this is America not the Middle East. Write in English, or are you trying to hide something here.

    • Bklyn mom

      Ellen, all that guy was saying was that we have a very informative website and interesting discussions here and he would bookmark the site. He didn’t say anything negative, but why he chose this particular story to make his comments was puzzling to me.

    • Devenio

      So, Ellen they speak Russian in the Middle East now?

  • Bklyn mom

    How does your comment relate to the story? I’m happy you like the site and the discussions, but maybe you can skip the Russian text and post something meaningful in English, as you obviously can!

    • Bklyn mom

      Apparently the comment I was commenting on has been removed… lol

  • Nancy

    Please let this be a reminder to us all, the importance of working fire detectors in our homes.

  • Vik

    I just don’t know what to say with this. Everyone could give their well, maybe she or she should have or if she did this …. fact remains her 3 children are dead and so are her parents. I don’t know how she and the contractor made it out alive but not those 3 kids and 2 other adults. Just don’t know how 5 other bodies couldn’t escape as quickly as this woman and contractor. Investigation continues.

    • Jean

      According to the news, the mother and the man were on the first floor and the others were on the upper floors. This was a series of mistakes one after the other that resulted in the death of 5 people. It’s easy to be Monday morning quarterbacks and postulate about would’ve, could’ve and should’ve but that doesn’t change anything. I’m sure if the mother could turn back the hands of time, she would have done a lot of things differently. RIP to the poor souls lost

  • nickki

    i think it is horrible and sad that something like this had to happen on Christmas day.

    • Rodin

      Would it have been any better any other day?



blog comments powered by Disqus
Giving Tuesday
Charles Osgood Event

Listen Live