HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Stamford officials urged the General Assembly on Tuesday to pass legislation requiring smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in all residential buildings, saying such a law could prevent tragedies like the fire that killed a couple and their three granddaughters on Christmas Day.
Michael Pavia, the mayor of Stamford, said Lomer and Pauline Johnson, their 7-year-old twin granddaughters, Grace and Sarah Badger, and their 9-year-old granddaughter, Lily Badger, did not have enough warning to escape the blaze that enveloped the Victorian home on Long Island Sound where they were spending the holiday.
"This was the most tragic Christmas in the history of the city of Stamford. The three Badger girls and their grandparents were unable to escape the effects of the fire, the heat and the smoke. The family did not have enough warning to exit the building," Pavia told members of the General Assembly's Public Safety and Security Committee. "As time went on and as the fire went unnoticed, the fire grew in intensity and spread. It consumed the entire house before that call for help came."
Madonna Badger, the girls' mother and the Johnsons' daughter, managed to escape. Her friend Michael Borcina, a contractor who had been renovating the $1.7 million house, also survived.
The continuing investigation into the blaze has partially focused on whether smoke detectors were in the house. There were plans for hard-wired smoke alarms, but they had not been hooked up, officials have said. Authorities have said the fire was started by embers in a bag of discarded fireplace ashes.
William Smith, deputy chief of the Stamford Fire and Rescue Department, said he's convinced that the Stamford tragedy would not have happened if the family had received proper warning from a detector.
"I think we would have seen the people in that family standing out on the front lawn," he said.
State Rep. Gerald Fox, D-Stamford, said the proposed legislation builds upon a 2005 state law requiring carbon monoxide detectors and warning equipment to be installed in new residential buildings, with the exception of one- and two-family dwellings. Under the new bill, all residential buildings would be required to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and warning equipment installed, regardless of the number of families living there.
"What it will do is bring additional awareness to the importance of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and it will provide warnings so people can vacate their homes when faced with dangerous situations," he said.
Fox, a chief proponent of the bill, said he's open to making sure the final version of the legislation applies to various types of technology. Lawmakers were urged Tuesday not to limit the language to one specific type of smoke or carbon monoxide detector.
State Rep. Mike Molgano, R-Stamford, said the legislation makes it clear that any residential building occupied by one or more families that holds a certificate of occupancy prior to Oct. 1, 1985, could have a battery-powered smoke detection and warning system.
Besides the Stamford tragedy, proponents of the bill said the legislation could have prevented numerous recent poisonings in Connecticut by carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can be toxic to humans. At least 10 deaths were blamed on the freak October snowstorm; many of those deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisonings.
The bill awaits action by the Public Safety and Security Committee.
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