Family, Friends Mourn Victims Of Christmas Day Fire

Stamford Fire Chief Attends, Speaks About The Tough Call He Had To Make

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) —  Madonna Badger, who lost her three daughters and both parents in the Christmas morning fire in Stamford, Conn., attended Wednesday’s wake, along with the girls’ father and the only other survivor of the tragedy, Badger’s contractor.

“It’s one of the worst funerals I’ve handled and I’ve done thousands,” said funeral director Dominic Carella.

Carella has been helping the families cope with the tragedy’s tremendous scope and said while Badger was holding up after having lost the generation above her and the one below, she has her moments.

1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reports

“She doesn’t talk so much about the tragedy. It’s more focused on how can we reflect on the children and I think that’s helping her,”  he said.

Ten-year-old Lily Badger and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger were lying in repose in matching mahogany caskets surrounded by pink and white flowers at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home on Madison Avenue. In the adjoining parlor lay grandparents Pauline and Lomer Johnson, in matching cherry wood caskets, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

All five were killed on Dec. 25 in a fire that was reportedly sparked by fireplace embers improperly-placed in a mudroom.

Stamford Fire Family

Lomer and Pauline Johnson, Lily Badger and twins Grace and Sarah Badger (credit: CBS 2).

The victims died of smoke inhalation. Lomer Johnson also suffered blunt trauma to the neck and head, which likely resulted from a fall or being hit by an object as he tried to rescue his granddaughters from the flames.

The only survivors were the girls’ mother and her contractor boyfriend Michael Borcina, who was working on renovations to the house. He arrived at the wake a little after 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Badger spent three days in a White Plains psychiatric facility after the fire and has been in seclusion since. Her brother made most of the wake and funeral arrangements.

About a dozen Stamford firefighters attended the wake at the invitation of the Badger and Johnson families.

Deputy Fire Chief Bill Smith, whose department responded to the deadly blaze, and who made the call to end the rescue attempt, told CBS 2’s Lou Young he still remains haunted by the tragedy.

“We like to think we’re miracle workers and we do perform miracles sometimes… For the guys to be pulled out when they were still hoping, it’s tough for them. That’s a call I have to make. If you go to a military term it’s a retreat,” Smith said.

“I replayed it in my head many times. I talked to you that Monday and I couldn’t come down for an interview. You always say to yourself what could I have done differently? What could I have done to change what was really a foregone outcome?” Smith added.

Smith, 60, asked to attend the wake out of a sense of duty for himself and his department. It was the first time he saw Madonna Badger since Christmas morning.

“To have the mother hanging on me at the very beginning of the operation very obviously distraught  — begging me to save her children and I didn’t do it. I couldn’t do it but we tried,” Smith said.

Chief Smith sent 15 firefighters into the burning building, while another 55 covered their advance. They tried for a full half hour before he knew he had to pull them out.

“They were going to get trapped on a stairway because the fire was moving so fast,” Smith said. “For the guys to be pulled out when they were still hoping, it’s tough for them, too.

“[Madonna Badger] was climbing the scaffolding to go back into the building. When you think about a desperate attempt to try and save your family, you know heroics on her part. We ended up saving her life by not letting her do that and the man wanted to go back in and we prevented him from going back in,” Smith added.

A video monitor was to play a film celebrating the lives of the five victims. Their caskets were closed, but there were pictures of each of the deceased nearby.

A public funeral service for the girls will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan. Following the funeral, there will be a private committal at Woodlawn Cemetery. Grace, Sarah and Lily will be buried there.

Stamford police have stepped up their role in the investigation into the deadly blaze. Experienced detectives are working to get to the bottom of the sequence of events that took the five lives.

Share your thoughts below…

  • Deborah Jeffries

    The more you read from other contractors, their expert opinions and contractors who said Borcina was interested in her wealth the more it clearly looks like Borcina’s actions were intentional and not negligence.

    Madonna Badger should leave him because this man has cost her enough.

  • May

    Rest in peace beautiful little girls. You did not die in vain. Many people have become aware of fire safety because of you! I know you are all in heaven.

  • Deborah Jeffries

    Michael Borcina should NOT have been there at the wake or funeral.

    Matthew Badger is a gentleman with such class as the vermin (Borcina) who stood behind him was stone faced and shed no tears.

    Matthew Badger is an incredible person and my heart goes out to him and I hope he can find some peace.

    His soon to be ex-wife will continue to have her killer boy toy in tow because these two selfish people deserve each other.

  • TC

    Did this home have fire alarms hooked up to central station?
    Sparked by fireplace embers improperly-placed in a mudroom.??
    Doesnt sound right at all___ who did this????!!
    SO SAD__ RIP

  • Susan Wydra

    The mean and untrue comments above make me sick to my stomach.
    You are all heartless individuals whom I wouldn’t trust as far as I could
    through you. God forgive you for these cruel comments.

  • Dorothy agostino

    This tragedy has nothing to do with insurance payment or how much these kids were insured for!!!!!!! the boyfriend will have to live with his horrific, horrific loss of COMMON SENSE!!

  • DanTe

    This “accident” smells like an unwashed armpit. HOT ashes in PAPER bag. Mother and boyfriend miraculously escapes while baggage/kids fry. And now they’re blaming it on Santa Clause – Santa wanted the ashes out of the way so that he won’t get singed. How much insurance was on the kids?

    • Seeing Red

      You will never learn about the insurance payments – that will be kept secret. The mom is now seeking donations via her PR firm for a non registered charity.

    • Seeing Red

      I agree DanTe – for a non registered charity. Send checks directly to her PR firm as her website requests. The media is a very useful and strong tool, and the mom knows that given her publicity background. The wording about the use of the funds is intentionally vague. Almost 2 million dollars was recently raised for the 4 children of a slain police office in NY. My heart bleeds for the father of the children. The mom and boyfriend’s negligence is the reason for her loss. She and the boyfriend should face negligent homicide charges, but they will not because Everything about this woman is opportunistic and calculated, including her stay in the psychiatric center, and allowing the boyfriend to attend the wake. He needs to be kicked to the curb. Her Facebook photo was changd from a dowdy one to a much more glamorous image only two or three days after the fire, which is a very bizarre. Everything about this story turns my stomach. I also find it odd that the Santa chimney embers explanation was provided to coincide with the day the donation appeal was relaeased……. More Public relations efforts to garner sympathy. Who in their right mind would dispose of hot embers outside of all wooden house? The boyfriend has a bachelors degree in chemistry so he is not some average Joe contractor. Don’t expect anything to come out of the delayed police investigation because this lady pays big property taxes and can afford to give $ 14,000 in donations to Obama, she can also make a big contribution elsewhere to have the investigation come out in her favor. You will not find anyone with the courage to even utter the word negligent homicide. These are the arrogant people that put firefighters in harm’s way. Notice how the media never reveals the cause of most fires? This was a senseless loss that could have been prevented by a “marketing genius” and her contractor boyfriend.. Two highly educated fools!

  • Safety Guru

    If you use a wood stove or fireplace, PLEASE buy a 5 gallon metal pail with lid and a good ash shovel. Bring the pail indoors as needed and then promptly put it outside on concrete or bare earth away from vegetation. Why? Because often ash that appears dead is hiding smoldering embers that can generate carbon monoxide.

  • cathy flanagan

    Born and raised in Stamford but now living in Vt I caution people who visit from the cities not to empty fireplaces or wood stoves unless they walk the hot ashes ourside and make sure they are in a ash can left no where near a wook deck the driveway a stone wall a fire pit they can stay hot for days. A very sad mistake that could happen to anyone. My prayers are with the family my you find peace and the courage to go on.

  • Nora

    This is a sad time not only for the parents of these people who perish in the fire but for everyone who have children and parents. May this family find strenght to cope and move on. I felt her pain as a mother and is deeply sadden myself.

  • liz

    Deeply saddened by such loss. May they all RIP.

  • liz

    This is one of the most tragic stories I hve ever read. I feel deeply sorry for the entire family. I can’t wrap my brain around so much grief at one time. It seems unimaginable. God Bless each and every one of them. May they RIP.

  • BFortunato Greenwich ct

    GOD BLESS all of them how tragic to have to bury your children and your parents all at once they are resting in Gods arms now.My heart goes out to the family with deepest sympathy

  • MikefromNY

    Call Joe Kenda!

  • AE

    That is none of your business!! Show a little compassion!

    • AE

      Now my comment above this one does not make one bit of sense, since it was in response to a comment that has since been removed… I am glad it has been removed, it was mean and totally uncalled for. And if the person who had written it sees this, she/he should feel ashamed!

  • kenyatta2009

    Reblogged this on A Little Local Color.

  • CT Native


  • bullett

    Here’s hoping that the news media will leave the family be to grieve undisturbed.

    • DanTe

      Yeah. They need the quiet time to count the mullah from the insurance pay outs.

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