Investigators are conducting follow-up interviews with the survivors of a Christmas fire that killed five family members, public safety officials said this week.
Police and fire officials had agreed to give Madonna Badger and Michael Borcina time to mourn the loss of Badger's three daughters and her parents, "But now we're moving ahead on that," police Capt. Richard Conklin.
Police interviewed Madonna Badger Thursday night, Conklin said late Friday afternoon. He declined to say what they learned.
He said they have an interview with Borcina scheduled for next week.
Police helped fire investigators contact Badger and Borcina, Assistant Fire Chief Peter M. Brown said.
Embers that were removed from a fireplace, put in a bag and placed in a rear mudroom of the Shippan Avenue house are believed to have caused the fire, fire officials said. Borcina reportedly removed the ashes so the children would not worry about Santa Claus coming down the chimney.
Badger and Borcina — who had been renovating the Shippan Avenue house — were able to escape. From a porch roof, Badger directed firefighters to where her children were, but the girls, Lily, Sarah and Grace, were later found dead. Their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson, also died.
Asked if the house had working smoke detectors, Conklin said, "that's part of what we're trying to confirm."
While he doesn't know for sure, Brown said 38 years in the fire service tells him there were none.
"I would guess that they didn't [have them]," he said. "If they had working smoke detectors, they would have had a better chance of getting out of the house."
The family had been in the process of installing hard-wired smoke detectors, a fire alarm and a security system, Brown said.
According to city records, Borcina also was installing carbon monoxide detectors and replacing deck railings. He was renovating a kitchen and bathrooms, and he was adding a gas line to the stove and boiler — which he also was replacing. In addition, the work included new lighting and pulldown-style stairs.
Investigators have to rule out other possible causes of the fire before they finish their probe, Brown said. But so far, the evidence points to the embers: The fire started in the rear corner of the house where the ashes were placed, he said.
"It's a stupid thing to do, discard hot ash in a flammable container, but there's no criminality to it," Brown said. "It's just a horrible accident."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times