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FDNY determines cause of blaze that killed LI firefighter

The FDNY also determined that the Harlem building’s sprinkler system had been shut off, and fire-resistant materials were removed from the first floor.

Left, FDNY firefighter Michael R. Davidson, of Floral

Left, FDNY firefighter Michael R. Davidson, of Floral Park. Right, the scene of the Manhattan fire Davidson died battling on March 22. Photo Credit: FDNY; John Hopper

The fire that killed an FDNY lieutenant from Long Island started when heat from a boiler ventilation flue pipe ignited nearby combustible materials, FDNY officials said in a news release Tuesday.

FDNY Lt. Michael R. Davidson, 37, died March 23 after he fought a blaze in a Harlem building being used for a movie set.

The fire started in the cellar of 773 St. Nicholas Ave, fire department officials said. The building is the former home of St. Nick’s Pub, a jazz club that closed in 2011.

Davidson, a Floral Park resident, was the first one in — the point man — on a team that entered the basement of the building to fight the fire. The team was ordered to retreat because the situation was too dangerous, but he couldn’t escape due to near-zero visibility. His colleagues soon noticed Davidson was missing, returned to the building and found him unconscious. He died at Harlem Hospital.

The Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York said he died of smoke inhalation.

The building was being used as a set for “Motherless Brooklyn,” a film directed by Edward Norton co-starring Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe.

The Fire Department’s ongoing investigation also determined that the building’s sprinkler system — which was installed both in the first floor restaurant/nightclub as well as the staircase and apartments on the upper floors — had been shut off and did not activate to suppress the fire once it spread from where it began in the basement, which did not have sprinklers, fire officials said in Tuesday’s release.

The investigation also found that fire-resistant materials had been removed from the first floor restaurant/nightclub, exacerbating conditions as the fire extended from the cellar, the release stated.

The fire department’s Safety Command is also conducting an investigation into the fire and Davidson’s death, the news release said.

Davidson, a 15-year veteran of the fire department, was promoted to lieutenant posthumously. His father was a firefighter and his brother also serves in the FDNY.

He is survived by his wife Eileen, three daughters and a son.


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