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FDNY firefighter dies battling massive fire in Harlem

The fire started in the former St. Nick Pub at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. at 149th St., which is being used as a movie set.

An FDNY firefighter died battling a massive fire in Harlem early Friday morning and two others were seriously injured. 

The fire broke around 10:50 p.m. Thursday night at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. near 149th St. The building was completely gutted, and the adjacent buildings appear to have sustained damage from the blaze as well. 

The cause of the five-alarm fire has not yet been determined, but FDNY told Metro early Friday that the initial call came in about a fire on the first floor. The blaze soon spread to the rest of the 4-story building.

City Councilman Mark Levine tweeted that multiple firefighter injuries have been reported and at least one is serious.

Just before 2 a.m., Levine tweeted that the firefighter, who was identifed as Michael R. Davidson, a 15-year FDNY veteran, died at Harlem Hospital. "Heart wrenching night for West Harlem and all of NYC," he wrote.

Davidson was a member of Engine Company 69, the first to arrive on the scene, The New York Times reported. He was operating the fire hose nozzle when he became separated from other firefighters after they began to retreat as the blaze continued to grow. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that conditions had worsened after the hoses were taken into the cellar.

Davidson was found unconscious and injured and taken to Harlem Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. He is survived by his wife, Eileen, and four children. The names of the two injured firefighters have not been released at this time.

"Firefighter Davidson bravely battled many fires and responded to countless calls for help from New Yorkers throughout his 15 years of dedicated service," Nigro said. "Our department and our entire city mourn this tragic loss of a very brave firefighter."

Davidson is the 1,150th FDNY firefighter to die in the line of duty, the department wrote on Facebook.

773 St. Nicholas Ave. is the site of the former St. Nick’s Pub, a long time jazz club that has been vacant since closing in 2011. It was currently being used as a set location for the 1950s-set “Motherless Brooklyn,” which is directed by and stars Edward Norton. It is slated for release next year.

In a statement, the producers of “Motherless Brooklyn,” which had been shooting in the area for several weeks, said the fire began at the end of the day’s filming when people saw smoke coming from below onto the set. 

“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,” the statement cited by the Times said. “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.”

This reporter’s stepdaughter Tyler Roarty was exiting a D train on the lower level of the 145th St. subway station when she began smelling smoke, and she could see a thick cloud of smoke as outside as she got to street level.

“I didn’t see the flames until I turned onto 148th Street,” she said. “It wasn’t like a movie fire. It was a consistent neon orange-like streak.”

Residents could see and smell the smoke several blocks away, and FDNY and NYPD vehicles contine to stretched along St. Nicholas Ave. to at least 145th St. 

One resident who lives in an adjacent building evacuated due to the smell, but she did not know the condition of her home early Friday morning.