Harlem fire that killed firefighter Michael Davidson caused by heat from boiler pipe, FDNY says

FDNY firefighter Michael Davidson, 37, died in a fire at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. on March 22.
FDNY firefighter Michael Davidson, 37, died in a fire at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. on March 22. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Heat from a boiler pipe caused the blaze that lead to the death of firefighter Michael Davidson in March, the FDNY said on Tuesday.

The heat from a boiler ventilation flue pipe ignited “nearby combustible materials” in the cellar of 773 St. Nicholas Ave. in Harlem, according to the department’s fire marshals, who are still investigating the fire that started in what was once the St. Nick’s Jazz Pub.

The location was being used for the film “Motherless Brooklyn,” a period crime drama directed by and starring Edward Norton.

FDNY officials also detailed Tuesday that the cellar where the fire started lacked sprinklers. The sprinkler system for the rest of the building, including several floors of apartments, had been shut off at the time of the fire. It failed to activate as the blaze spread from the cellar, according to the department.

“Fire-resistant materials” had been removed from the former pub, which marshals found to exacerbate the situation.

A spokesman for the department would not comment on what combustible materials had helped spark the blaze, or specifically what other fire-resistant materials had been removed, citing the ongoing investigation.

Davidson, 37, was working as the nozzle man on the job, making him the first one into the burning building. A husband and father of four young children, the 15-year veteran at the FDNY was remembered as hero and a loving family man at a large funeral held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Davidson was posthumously promoted to lieutenant. A resident of Floral Park, Davidson hailed from a family of firefighters. His father had worked for the FDNY and his brother, Eric Davidson, still serves at the department.

“Lieutenant Michael Davidson was a natural-born nozzle man, but he still worked and trained hard every single day to make himself even better,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at the service. “He was without question a leader.”