Three sisters, 9-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace Badger, and their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, died in the fire. The children’s mother, Madonna Badger, and her boyfriend, Michael Borcina, survived.
In the report that was released Friday online, Stamford State’s Attorney David Cohen called the blaze “an inexplicable accident.”
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“We know that some precautions were taken,” he wrote. “While in hindsight, they were obviously insufficient, when viewed from the perspective of that night, they do not rise to the level of criminal negligence.”
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The report said there was no crime, but it does not say there was no blame, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported. The deepest horror of it is that survivor Madonna Badger and boyfriend Michael Borcina caused the disaster that took her three girls and her parents — a burden too awful to imagine.
The state’s attorney said Madonna Badger watched Michael Borcina removed ashes from a fireplace early Christmas morning and place them in a paper bag. She told investigators that it didn’t seem safe at the time, but she saw Borcina run his fingers through the ashes checking for embers and decided to keep her misgivings to herself.
Everyone was asleep hours later when the wind in an outdoor mudroom hit the spark he missed and started the fire that changed their lives.
“He says that he then smoothed out the ashes in the bag with his hand. This was confirmed by Mrs. Badger, who stated that this allayed any concern that she might have had that there were live embers present,” Cohen said.
Badger and Borcina then both went to bed and about 40 minutes later, the fire was first reported, Cohen said.
During the course of the investigation, there have been questions about whether or not there were working smoke detectors inside the home.
At the time of the blaze, the house was under renovations which “required the installation of ‘hard wired’ smoke detectors, connected to the electrical system of the house with a battery backup system,” the report said.
While hard-wired smoke detectors were physically installed, Cohen said they were not connected to the electrical system and therefore, were not working.
And although five or six battery operated smoke detectors had been purchased and installed at the end of September when the Badgers moved into the home, Cohen said neither Badger, Borcina or any neighbors heard smoke alarms going off the morning of the fire.
That being said, the report stated that “although operating hard-wired smoke detectors would be required in order for a final Certificate of Acceptance to be issued, at the time of the fire, no smoke detectors were required by the building code. It was also legal for the Badgers to be living at the house during the renovations unless the Building Inspector forbade it when the permit was issued.”
In the end, Cohen said he decided not pursue charges in the case.
“It is my opinion that there is insufficient evidence to establish that either Mrs. Badger or Mr. Borcina were aware of and consciously disregarded a risk that there was a possible live ember in the ash that could result in a catastrophic fire,” Cohen wrote. “It stretches belief to think that they would consciously disregard the danger and go to sleep, much less that they would disregard any danger to the Badger children or Mrs. Badger’s parents.”
Cohen’s harshest criticism was reserved for the city of Stamford and its decision to immediately demolish the Badger home and remove the physical evidence that might have changed some aspect of the story, CBS 2’s Young reported. He’s recommending that police and his office be consulted in any subsequent fatal fires before potential evidence is destroyed.
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