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Conn. house where 5 died in fire is torn down

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Rubble left after the demolition of a house where a fire left five people dead Christmas Day lies on the ground, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011, in Stamford, Conn. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg) Rubble left after the demolition of a house where a fire left five people dead Christmas Day lies on the ground, Monday, Dec. 26, 2011, in Stamford, Conn. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — A house severely damaged in a Christmas morning fire that killed three children and two grandparents, one of whom worked as Santa Claus at Saks Fifth Avenue, has been torn down.

The building department determined that the $1.7 million house was unsafe and ordered it razed, Stamford fire chief Antonio Conte said.

The home's owner, advertising executive Madonna Badger, and her male acquaintance escaped from the fire. But Badger's three daughters — a 10-year-old and 7-year-old twins — and her parents, who were visiting for the holiday, died, police said.

Neighbors said they awoke to the sound of screaming shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday and rushed outside to help, but could do nothing as flames devoured the large, turreted home.

Police said the male acquaintance who escaped the blaze with Badger was a contractor working on the home. He was also hospitalized but his condition was not released.

Interviews with them will be finished Monday, Conte said. He had no details on the investigation.

A spokeswoman for Saks Fifth Avenue confirmed in a statement that Badger's father, Lomer Johnson, had worked as a Santa this year at its flagship store in Manhattan.

"Mr. Johnson was Saks Fifth Avenue's beloved Santa, and we are heartbroken about this terrible tragedy," spokeswoman Julia Bently said.

Badger, an ad executive in the fashion industry, is the founder of New York City-based Badger & Winters Group. A supervisor at Stamford Hospital said she was treated and discharged by Sunday evening. Her whereabouts Monday was unknown.

Property records show Badger bought the five-bedroom, waterfront home for $1.7 million last year. The house was situated in Shippan Point, a wealthy neighborhood that juts into Long Island Sound.

The lot where the house once stood was covered with charred debris and cordoned off by police with tape on Monday. Passers-by left bouquets, stuffed animals and candles nearby.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a former mayor of Stamford, offered his condolences to Badger and her family in a statement and said her loss "defies explanation."

The fire was Stamford's deadliest since a 1987 blaze that also killed five people, Conte said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

This is the latest story. The original story is below.

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Fire swept through an advertising executive's Victorian home along the Connecticut shoreline, killing her three children and her parents.

Madonna Badger and a male acquaintance were able to escape from the house as it was engulfed by flames on Christmas morning, Stamford police Sgt. Paul Guzda said. But Badger's three daughters — a 10-year-old and 7-year-old twins — died in the fire, Guzda said.

He said Badger's parents, who were visiting for the holiday, also died in the blaze.

Neighbors said they awoke to the sound of screaming shortly before 5 a.m. and rushed outside to help, but they could only watch in horror as flames devoured the grand home and the shocked, injured survivors were led away from the house.

Badger, an ad executive in the fashion industry, is the founder of New York City-based Badger & Winters Group. A supervisor at Stamford Hospital said she was treated and discharged by Sunday evening.

Property records show she bought the five-bedroom, waterfront home for $1.7 million last year. The house is situated in Shippan Point, a wealthy neighborhood that juts into Long Island Sound.

The male acquaintance who also escaped the blaze was a contractor who was doing work on the home, Guzda said. He was also hospitalized but his condition was not released.

"It is a terrible, terrible day," Mayor Michael Pavia told reporters at the scene of the fire. "There probably has not been a worse Christmas day in the city of Stamford."

Police officers drove Badger's husband, Matthew Badger, from New York City to Stamford on Sunday morning. Badger's parents lived in Southbury, Conn., Guzda said.

Firefighters knew there were other people in the home but could not get to them because the flames were too large and the heat too intense, said Acting Fire Chief Antonio Conte, his voice cracking with emotion.

"It's never easy. That's for sure," he said. "I've been on this job 38 years ... not an easy day."

Conte said fire officials don't yet know the cause of the blaze and likely would not get clues for a few days until fire marshals can enter the structure and examine it.

By Sunday evening, the roof of the blackened house had largely collapsed.

A neighbor, Sam Cingari Jr., said he was awakened by the sound of screaming and saw that the house was engulfed by flames.

"We heard this screaming at 5 in the morning," he said. "The whole house was ablaze and I mean ablaze."

Cingari said he did not know his neighbors, who he said bought the house last year and were renovating it.

Charles Mangano, who lives nearby, said his wife woke him up and alerted him to the fire. He ran outside to see if he could help and saw a number of fire trucks in front of the house.

"I heard someone yell 'Help, help, help me!' and I started sprinting up my driveway," Mangano told The Advocate of Stamford.

He told the newspaper he saw a barefoot man wearing boxers and a woman being taken out of the house. The outdoor temperature at the time was below freezing, according to the National Weather Service.

The woman said, "My whole life is in there," Mangano said. "They were both obviously in a state of shock."

Stamford, a city of 117,000 residents, is about 25 miles northeast of New York City.

Badger was the creative mind behind major advertising campaigns for leading fashion brands, including the iconic Marky Mark underwear ads for Calvin Klein.

Raised in Kentucky, Badger began her career working as a graphic designer in the art department of Esquire magazine. Before starting her own company, she worked as an art director for several magazines and CRK, the in-house advertising agency for designer Calvin Klein.

Badger & Winters has worked with Proctor & Gamble, CoverGirl, A/X Armani Exchange, Emanuel Ungaro and Vera Wang, among other high-profile corporations. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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