Fast-moving blaze that gutted old Victorian home in Stanford may have started with a fireplace.
A Christmas morning fire that killed a couple and their three grandchildren has been devastating to firefighters who rushed into the home twice frantically looking for the victims before flames beat them back.
Stamford officials are offering counseling to the firefighters.
Authorities on Tuesday described the frantic, futile attempts to save the girls and their grandparents after embers in a bag of discarded fireplace ashes started the accidental fire at the grand waterfront house, which was being renovated.
Of the seven people in the home, there were only two survivors.
The Connecticut medical examiner said Wednesday that the five victims died of smoke inhalation, although the grandfather also suffered head and neck trauma that could have resulted from a fall or being hit by an object.
New York advertising executive Madonna Badger and a male acquaintance, Michael Borcina, were able to escape the blaze, but her parents, who were visiting for the holidays, and her daughters, 10-year-old Lily and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah, were killed.
Firefighters knew there were people trapped in the home but could not get to them because the flames were too large and the heat too intense, officials said.
The girls' mother told the first rescuers on scene that the children were sleeping on the third floor. They searched and could not find them, Fire Chief Antonio Conte said. Borcina later told them that he had gotten the children to the second floor, but they became scared and they lost track of each other.
On later trips to the second floor, firefighters still could not find the kids.
"Obviously we were unable to rescue anyone in that structure, and it's a sad day for the fire department," Conte said at the time.