Firefighter Dies Responding to Massive Blaze at NYC Movie Set

A New York City firefighter was killed battling a massive fire that broke out at a building in Harlem, where a movie directed by Edward Norton was being filmed.

The five-alarm fire sparked around 11 p.m. in the basement of an unoccupied residential building, New York Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters early Friday morning.

The blaze began inside the now-vacant St. Nick's Jazz Pub, which has been closed since 2011, in a building designated as a landmark by New York City.

Nigro said one firefighter, identified as Michael R. Davidson, was killed by the blaze, while two other firefighters sustained serious burns and three civilians reported minor injuries.

Davidson, 37, was responsible for operating the fire hose nozzle for Engine Company 69 and was the first to arrive on the scene, the commissioner said. Officials said he was somehow separated from other firefighters when the blaze intensified and forced them to pull back from the building.

When he was found by other firefighters, he was unconscious and critically injured. He was taken to Harlem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

“New York City is in mourning tonight,” Councilman Mark D. Levine said of Davidson in a tweet. “He made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of our neighbors. Horrific tragedy. We pray for his family and loved ones.”

Firefighter Davidson was a 15-year veteran of the NYFD and had been cited for bravery on four occasions, the department said. Davidson, who comes from a family of firefighters, is survived by his wife, Eileen, and four children. He was the 1,150th firefighter in the 153-year history of the department to die in the line of duty, Commissioner Nigro said.

The building, which was one of Harlem’s few remaining jazz clubs before it closed, was being used for filming of "Motherless Brooklyn," a movie set for release next year. It stars Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe and Alec Baldwin, with Norton as director, screenwriter and actor.

The film's producers issued a statement saying, "Our deepest condolences to the family of Michael R. Davidson. A fire broke out tonight in the building where we were shooting our film. Our production was towards the end of our working day and had dozens of people working on site, when our crew noticed that smoke was coming into our set and into other parts of the building from below us. As soon as we noticed smoke coming up into our set, our crew immediately alerted the fire department and began alerting residents of the building even as we evacuated our cast and crew.”

"To our great sorrow, we now know that a NYC firefighter lost his life battling the blaze that grew, and our hearts ache in solidarity with his family. New York City firefighters truly are the bravest in the world. We watched firsthand with astonishment as they charged into the smoke to make sure all were safely out and then fought to contain the blaze and prevent it from spreading, putting their lives on the line as they do every day. The FDNY are real life super-heroes and have our boundless admiration and gratitude,” the statement continued.

Eric Phillips, press secretary for NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, announced the death on Twitter. “This is an awful night,” he wrote. “We’ve lost an NYC firefighter.”

CBS News reports that roughly 200 members of the New York Fire Department were present to contain the Harlem fire. The fire was declared under control about 2:30 a.m. Friday.

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The building, constructed in 1920, was not fire-resistant and the flames spread quickly, Nigro said. The cause of the blaze remained under investigation Friday morning.

Photo credit: Twitter / @soinfullana