The funeral service for Michael R. Davidson, the FDNY firefighter who died early Friday while battling a blaze at a former Harlem jazz club that was being used as a movie location, is slated to take place Tuesday morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Davidson, 37, was a 15-year veteran of the FDNY and a member of Engine Company 69, the first to arrive at the scene of the five-alarm fire at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. near 149th St.
Officials said Davidson was operating the fire hose nozzle when he became separated from other firefighters as they began retreating when conditions in the building worsened. He was found unconscious and later died at Harlem Hospital.
On Monday, the city’s medical examiner determined that Davidson died from smoke inhalation, ABC7 reported.
The fire is believed to have started in the basement, where a boiler had been worked on Wednesday, the day before the blaze.
The first floor of the five-story building was the site of the former St. Nick Pub, a longtime jazz club that closed in 2011. It had sat vacant until recently, when it began being used as a set location for “Motherless Brooklyn,” a 1950s-set film directed by and starring Edward Norton.
Filming was wrapping up late Thursday night in the pub when an assistant director smelled smoke, Norton wrote on Instagram. The crew was evacuated and they began moving their vehicles and equipment so the FDNY could access the building.
“I have never witnessed firsthand that kind of bravery. I’m in awe of that kind of selfless courage,” Norton wrote. “It’s devastating to contemplate that one of the men we watched charging in there lost his life.”
Many of you know that the crew of our film ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ experienced a dramatic and ultimately tragic event on Thursday night, in which a fire engulfed the building we were working in and an FDNY firefighter died fighting the blaze. Thanks to the many, many people who have written to us supportively. Our team’s formal statement on the event is here in the slideshow. It has been reported in some news outlets that the fire ‘started on the set’. This is incorrect. It appears to have started in the basement cellar of the building we were working in. We were filming in a bar and an apartment within the building and our crew noticed smoke rising up into where we were working. It has been reported that I was the one who smelled smoke and raised an alarm. This is incorrect. I was outside setting up a shot outside the building. Our fantastic 1st AD was the first to notice the smell of smoke before anyone even saw it and it was he and others on the crew who acted decisively and quickly to try to locate the source of the smoke, evacuate cast and crew, call the fire department and then rapidly move our equipment and vehicles away so that the FDNY had clear access. I cannot praise the professionalism of our crew highly enough. Had our team not noticed the situation and responded and alerted the fire department with the speed they did, I believe the residents of the building above would have perished. And though we described what we saw the FDNY do in our statement and articulated our feelings, it’s worth doubling down. I have never witnessed firsthand that kind of bravery. I’m in awe of that kind of selfless courage. It’s devastating to contemplate that one of the men we watched charging in there lost his life. Please send a prayer of thanks for the spirit and courage of Michael Davidson. Our team is committed to honoring him and assisting his family and, in due course, when we can determine with his family what form they’d like that to take, I’ll pass along any information I have about a verified way people can contribute.
On Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro posthumously promoted Davidson to lieutenant. A member of the department since 2003, Davidson had been cited for bravery four times and is the 1,150th FDNY firefighter to die in the line of duty, officials said.
Wake services for Davidson began Sunday afternoon and were set to continue Monday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at Thomas F. Dalton Funeral Home (29 Atlantic Ave., Floral Park, Long Island).
Davidson’s funeral mass will begin at St. Patrick’s at 10 a.m. Tuesday. He is survived by his wife, Eileen, and four children: Brooke, 7, Joseph, 6, Emily, 3, and Amy, 1.
Davidson’s brother, Eric, is an 11-year veteran of Engine Company 88 in the Bronx, and his father, Robert, retired from the department after 26 years of primarily working at Engine Company 69, the FDNY said on Facebook.
The streets near the site of the fire at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. remain blocked off, and the building is slated to be demolished soon so investigators can determine the exact cause and why Davidson became separated from other firefighters, ABC7 reported.