Lomer Johnson, pictured dressed as Santa Claus, died with his wife and three grandchildren in the fast-moving blaze.
Officials say smoldering embers blamed for a fire that killed three girls and their grandparents had been taken out of a fireplace so the children would not worry about Santa Claus coming down the chimney.
Two officials briefed on the investigation say the ashes were removed out of concerns for Santa. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the investigation is still under way.
Authorities say embers in a bag of discarded ashes started the blaze Christmas morning in Stamford that killed 10-year-old Lilly and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger and their grandparents, Lomer and Pauline Johnson.
The girls' mother, Madonna Badger, escaped the fire along with a friend, Michael Borcina.
A funeral service will be held Thursday in New York City for the girls.