Matt Lauer Interviews Madonna Badger Tonight, 6/21

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In an exclusive interview with NBC's Matt Lauer, Madonna Badger, the woman who lost her three daughters and parents in a fire on Christmas morning, speaks out for the first time. The emotional interview will air tonight, June 21st on TODAY and later on "Rock Center with BrIan Williams" at 10p/9c.

Badger opens up to Lauer about the house in Connecticut she was renovating, her upbringing in a safety-conscious home, and what it was like to hear that her daughters and parents had not survived the fire. She discusses the subsequent events following the fire and the unanswered questions about how the fire could have started.

Sound bites from the interviews follow:

Matt Lauer:
Let me start with a question I think you've been asked a thousand times in the last five and a half months. How are you surviving? How are you coping?

MADONNA BADGER:
A day at a time. I mean, there's really no way -- every day I wake up and I have to remember, you know? So every day I have to go through that day. And then another day starts. So really it's just one day at a time.

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Matt Lauer:
I want to get back to the house in a second, but on a couple of occasions already you've said to me, "My mom is," and "Matthew is being a great parent to Lily, Grace, and Sarah." You speak in the present with your daughters and your mom and your dad. Consciously or subconsciously?

MADONNA BADGER:
Definitely subconsciously. Sometimes consciously.

Matt Lauer:
Why consciously?

MADONNA BADGER:
'Cause I feel them. They're with me, you know? They're not here physically. But I feel them, my children, and my mom and dad.

Matt Lauer:
Do you think you'll always feel that way?

MADONNA BADGER:
I hope so.

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Matt Lauer:
Let's talk about this in detail, because this is very important. And this is something that's been written a lot about. So as the renovations were going on and you and your girls were living there, there were smoke detectors in that house?

MADONNA BADGER:
There were two different kinds of smoke detectors in the house.

Matt Lauer:
So while you and Lily and Grace and Sarah were living in that house as the renovations were being completed, there were smoke detectors in that house?

MADONNA BADGER:
Yes. There were two different types of smoke detectors. One was battery operated. And those are the ones that I had put in in September. Because when we moved in, the hard wired smoke alarms had not been put in. Only the wires were there, but the actual alarms themselves were not there. And so my dad and I placed the battery-operated alarms. We didn't hang them on the wall. We put nails on the wall and kind of hung them, but they weren't permanent. And then when the hard-wired smoke and fire alarms went up, those battery-operated ones went away. And so my understanding was that I had an operable fire and smoke alarms.

Matt Lauer:
You tested the wired smoke detectors?

MADONNA BADGER:
Yes.

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MADONNA BADGER:
The house was old. And the fireplace is very shallow. And so maybe, I don't know, a foot, a foot and a half. And so the wind blew ashes out onto the hearth. And so we were cleaning up. Mike started cleaning up those ashes on the hearth, put them in a brown bag-- that was like a shopping bag, like a fancy-- craft paper bag. I can see all of it in my mind's eye, you know?

And the bag was about that wide and about that deep. And then just in the front, under the grid iron or whatever it's called, you know, took those ashes just out of the front. So, you know, it wasn't a big cleanup. It was just get the stuff out of the front.

Matt Lauer:
Are we talking about ashes or are we talking about embers? Are we talking about -- the little blackened coals that are the result of a fire? How would you describe what he put in that bag?

MADONNA BADGER:
I saw them as ashes that were in the front of the fireplace. So, you know, I can't tell you exactly what was there, 'cause I didn't look that carefully, quite frankly. But I know that I watched him take them with his hand, the shovel, and put 'em into the bag. And then take his -- I watched him put his hands in the bag.

Matt Lauer:
So he's putting his hands in the bag now to feel -

MADONNA BADGER:
To make sure that there's nothing on fire in the bag.

Matt Lauer:
And you watched him do that?

MADONNA BADGER:
Oh yeah.

Matt Lauer:
Do you blame him?

MADONNA BADGER:
No, I do not blame him. I don't believe that the ashes started the fire. So I don't blame him.
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