Lack of detectors = tragic Christmas fire lesson

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12/29/2011

The early morning Christmas Day house fire in Connecticut that took the lives of three little girls and their grandparents is an event sad beyond all words.

And adding to the sadness is a report that the century-old Victorian mansion’s smoke detectors weren’t working as the blaze—which officials say was caused by fireplace embers that were improperly disposed of—raced through the wood structure as everyone was sleeping around 3 a.m.

I can’t help imagining a totally different outcome if functioning detectors—or a monitored fire detection system—had been safely protecting this home.

Here’s the latest on the Stamford, Conn. Fire from today’s New York Post:
 

A permit was approved in May for at least seven smoke detectors in a doomed Connecticut mansion — but none was hooked up when three girls and their grandparents died there in a horrific Christmas Day fire.

The chief buildings official in Stamford told The Post yesterday that, given the time between when he issued the permit and Sunday’s fire, the detectors should have been working.

Robert DeMarco said that the city performed an inspection in June and found that the smoke detectors — part of a security system that included motion and carbon-monoxide detectors — were not connected to the home’s electricity or an outside monitor.

That was not unusual, he said. But the system should have been connected within three months of that inspection, by September, he said, even if the law doesn’t require it.

“If they got all their inspections in June, I would say . . . they should have been complete,” DeMarco said.

Renderings of the planned renovations on the three-story $1.7 million Victorian show that six of the seven smoke detectors were to be installed on the second floor: one in each of three bedrooms, another in a master closet and two near stairwells to the first and third floors.

Owner Madonna Badger, 47, her boyfriend, Michael Borcino, 52, and her parents were believed to be on the second floor when fireplace embers ignited the house.

Her daughters, 10-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Sarah and Grace, were on the third floor and couldn’t escape the flames, despite rescue efforts by Borcino and Badger’s dad, Lomer Johnson, 71.

Autopsy results released yesterday showed that the victims, who also included Badger’s mother, Pauline Johnson, 69, died from smoke inhalation. Lomer Johnson also had injuries to his head and neck, likely caused by a fall.

The Post also reported yesterday that a city official said “a modern “hardwired” smoke detection system was being installed as part of ongoing renovations. But it hadn’t gone online in the five-bedroom home, which was built in 1895.”