Boiler Pipe Caused Harlem Blaze That Killed Firefighter

Patch reports that heat from a boiler ventilation flue pipe sparked a blaze that killed an FDNY firefighter in Harlem, the city’s fire marshals announced Tuesday. The fire started when combustable materials left near the pipe erupted in flames, the fire marshals said in a press release.

Michael Davidson, 37, died while responding to a March 23 five-alarm fire in the basement of a five-story building on St. Nicholas Avenue and West 149th Street. The building was in use as a set for a movie starring Edward Norton and Bruce Willis.

Fire marshals announced Tuesday that the building’s sprinkler system was shut off and did not activate during the fire. Flame resistant materials had also been removed from the building’s first floor — which was previously St. Nick’s Jazz Pub at 773 West 135th Street  — fire marshals said.

Davidson, of Floral Park, was assigned to the nozzle when he got separated from firefighters inside the “rapidly deteriorating fire conditions,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in March. Firefighters recovered Davidson’s body and he was rushed to Harlem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, fire officials said. He was a 15-year FDNY veteran of Engine Company 69 in Manhattan and had been cited for bravery and life-saving actions four times in his career, Nigro said.

The building where the fire broke out was being used as a set for the upcoming Bruce Willis and Edward Norton film “Motherless Brooklyn,” according to a statement from the film’s producers. The movie crew “immediately alerted the fire department” after noticing smoke coming into the set from below them, the producers said in a statement.

The city Department of Building ruled that the St. Nicholas Avenue building must be torn down due to significant structural damage suffered during the fire. Demolition on the building began days after the fire.

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