UPDATE: The Christmas morning fire at a Connecticut home that killed three girls and their grandparents was started by fireplace embers that had been cleared out of the fireplace and put in either a mud room attached to the house or a trash enclosure next to the mud room, fire officials said Tuesday. It is unclear whether there were smoke alarms in the house, which was in the middle of an extensive renovation.
(STAMFORD, Conn.) — The grandfather who died in a Connecticut Christmas fire that claimed the lives of five people tried desperately to rescue one of his granddaughters as the house was being engulfed by flames.
The grandfather, Lomer Johnson, made it out a third floor window and onto the roof before being overcome by fumes.
“The grandfather was found just outside the structure on a small roof covered in debris and inside the window we found one of the children,” Stamford Fire Chief Antonio Conte told ABC’s Good Morning America. “It appears that the grandfather has one of the children with him, tried to exit the structure but was overcome and passed away. And the little one passed away just inside the window.”
Johnson was one of five who died in the blaze. His wife Pauline and their three granddaughters, Lily, 10, and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah, were also killed.
The only survivors were the girls’ mother, Madonna Badger, and her friend, Michael Borcina, a contractor who had been working on the home. They were able to escape from the first floor of the five-bedroom home. Badger and Borcina were hospitalized with burn injuries.
The three-alarm fire started at about 5 a.m. on Christmas.
Though reports have said the fire was started by the embers of yule logs, Conte said that the official cause of the fire has not yet been handed down from the fire marshal’s office.
The $1.7 million Victorian home was torn down Monday after the fire department deemed the destroyed structure unsafe.
Lomer had recently fulfilled a life-long dream of playing Santa at Saks Fifth Avenue, at the urging of his oldest granddaughter. A few years ago, he retired as a safety and security director and he and his wife moved to the area to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren.
Badger was a fashion consultant and advertising executive, who created the Mark Wahlberg Calvin Klein underwear ads. Badger climbed onto the roof, desperately trying to break a bedroom window, but the flames had spread too quickly, Stamford Police Sgt. Paul Guzda told ABC News.
Relatives said Badger had been recently divorced and moved from New York City to the affluent suburb of Stamford and renovated the home for her family.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Aaron Smith and Evan Perez, CNM
Jethro Mullen, Ravi Hiranand and Frank Pallotta, CNN