FDNY firefighter Michael Davidson devoted his love, time and talents to his wife and four children in Floral Park as well as to an extended family at the firehouse known as the “Harlem Hilton,” colleagues and friends said.
His death on Thursday, after battling a Harlem fire on the set of a movie written, directed and starring Edward Norton, deeply saddened those who said Davidson was the kind of firefighter who fellow veterans trusted to do a job right.
“This is what’s so terrible about what happened,” said Lt. Ray McCormack, who trained Davidson, 37, in the academy. “We had a firefighter with awesome talents and you could do everything right and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.”
Davidson, a 15-year veteran, followed the footsteps of his father, Robert, becoming a firefighter and even working out of the same firehouse as his dad once did.
The call to serve runs in the family: His brother, Eric, is on the job in the Bronx.
“His own self motivation to be good, he comes from a firefighting family and also the fact that he worked in a place that gave him an opportunity to go to a few fires and he excelled at them when he did it,” McCormack said. “He was always a top performer.”
At his Harlem fire station, Engine Company 69, Davidson’s extended family — about 60 firefighters — grieved his death Friday morning. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
“It’s a death in the family,” said lieutenants representative Jack Kielty of the firefighters union. “We take family seriously. This is tough.”
A retired firefighter from the firehouse said Davidson, a 15-year veteran, was well-regarded as a firefighter and as a man.
“A good fireman, a good husband — well respected,” said the retired firefighter, who would only identify himself as Tom out of respect for the family.
He added, “A young guy, in great shape.”
He said Davidson was a “nozzle man,” meaning that he was at the front end of the hose.
“He’s the first guy in,” he said. “He puts out the fire.”
Tom was close with Davidson’s father, Robert, who he said was proud that his son worked as a firefighter.
“Our main concern is his family now,” Tom said. “Helping them through this.”
Cristobal Sustre, 49, who lives across from the firehouse, laid flowers in front of the station to pay his respects.
“This man gave his life to save others,” he said.
As he walked by firefighters, Sustre said, “Sorry for your loss. God bless you.”
Davidson’s classmates from his junior high, East New York’s Robert F. Kennedy Incentive Program, learned of his death through social media.
“Everybody’s really heartbroken,” said Danielle M. Gray of Jamaica by telephone.
Her mother, the PTA president at the time, remembered Davidson wanted to be a firefighter — just like his dad — when he was in junior high, Gray said.
In Davidson’s neighborhood, Joanne Cauldon, who lives across the street from the Davidsons, said the fallen firefighter was a “good family man” and kind.
Indeed, he was seen playing with his children in the snow before he reported to work Thursday, a shift from which he never returned.
“He shoveled every sidewalk on the block the other day with his snowblower,” Cauldon said.
Davidson is survived by his wife, Eileen, and four children — three daughters ages 7, 3 and 1 and a son, age 6.
He was the son of retired firefighter Robert Davidson, who served for 26 years “primarily in the same firehouse as his son,” the FDNY said. His brother, firefighter Eric Davidson, an 11-year veteran, works at Engine Company 88 in the Bronx.
“It’s a loss, a terrible loss,” Kielty said. “He’s 37 years old and he has four young kids.”
With Mark Morales, Chau Lam and Joan Gralla