STAMFORD, Conn. - A woman and male friend escaped an early morning fire that killed the woman's three daughters and her parents at her Shippan Avenue home on Christmas Day.
Madonna Badger was listed in fair condition at Stamford Hospital Sunday afternoon. She and a male friend escaped the blaze, which engulfed her five-bedroom home near the tip of Shippan Point just before 5 a.m. Sunday, claiming the lives of five of the people inside.
Stamford Police Sgt. Paul Guzda said Badger's three daughters -- a 10-year-old and 7-year-old twins -- died in the fire He said Badger's parents, who live in Heritage Village in Southbury and were visiting for the holiday, also died.
Ocean Drive West resident Charles Mangano said he heard a man screaming for help as flames consumed the house shortly before dawn. Mangano said he saw rescue workers helping a middle-aged man and woman into Emergency Medical Services trucks.
"They were both obviously in a state of shock," Mangano said. "He was in his boxers and a T-shirt, with no shoes. They were leading him up to an EMS truck. The woman said -- she was mumbling -- and she said, 'my whole life is in there.' "
Badger, 47, bought the 3,349-square-foot home at 2267 Shippan Ave. about a year ago from William and Marilyn Foster for $1.7 million. Reached by phone Sunday, Marilyn Foster said Badger was living in the home.
"(Badger) was the buyer and she was living there with her children," Foster said. "She has three children."
Badger is founder of Badger and Winters, a fashion branding consulting firm. She is listed on the company website as a "20-year veteran of the beauty and fashion business."
Smoke was still rising from the charred building early Sunday afternoon as Mayor Michael Pavia and Acting Fire Chief Antonio Conte spoke to reporters during an emotional news conference at the scene. Conte said Stamford Fire & Rescue received the first report of the fire at 4:52 a.m. Firefighters tried to save the five other people trapped in the house, he said.
"First units on the scene attempted rescue within the structure, they were pushed back by intense flame and heat," Conte, said. "As a result we lost five Stamford residents."
Conte, a 38-year fire department veteran, held back tears as he spoke. Pavia, who Mangano said arrived on the scene shortly after 5 a.m., said it was a "terrible, terrible day in the city of Stamford."
"Our heart goes out for the family, friends of these people, as well as the firefighters and emergency medical people, police department and all that were on the scene and are, frankly, suffering as a result," Pavia said. "Our heart goes out to them and we hope they find peace soon. It's Christmas Day. There probably has not been a worse Christmas Day in the city of Stamford."
The roof of the house was collapsing Sunday morning and Conte said structural damage would hinder investigators from determining the cause of the blaze.
"With the condition of the building it will remain (under investigation) for a number of days until the fire marshal can get in," Conte said. "I would say it's a number of days before we actually find out how this occurred and what happened."
Mangano, who said his house is located diagonally behind the Shippan Avenue home, said his wife woke him early in the morning to tell him there was a huge fire at one of the neighbors' homes.
"I got dressed real quick and ran outside," Mangano said. "I heard somebody yelling 'help, help, help me.' I started sprinting up my driveway and made the turn onto the street and then I saw there were tons and tons of fire apparatus here. So I just came up to see if there was anything I could do. I mean, there was nothing I could do."
Mangano said he did not know the home's residents, but walks his dogs past the house daily in warm weather. He said the home was under heavy construction this past summer.
All five victims were removed from the second floor of the burned building Sunday, Conte said.
Shippan Avenue resident Sam Cingari, who lives directly across the street from the house, said he was awakened at 4:45 a.m. Christmas morning to the sound of a woman screaming.
"There were flames coming out of the first-, second- and third-floor windows," Cingari said. "The entire house was engulfed in flames. All I could see is flames coming out of every window and porch of the house."
Cingari said he later learned it had been Madonna Badger he heard screaming.
"The reason she was screaming, of course, was because her family was inside the house," he said.
Stamford property records list the house as a single-family five-bedroom house with 10 rooms and 3.5 baths. The house was built in 1895, has one fireplace and central heat.
Badger, a fashion consultant, helped create 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.
Ben Doody and Jonathan Lucas contributed to this report. Staff Writer Kate King can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 203-964-2263.