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Movie set clutter, toxic fumes contributed to firefighter Michael Davidson's death: Report

The 15-year FDNY veteran died in a fire that broke out inside a building being used to film "Motherless Brooklyn."

Firefighter Michael Davidson died on March 23, 2018,

Firefighter Michael Davidson died on March 23, 2018, following a fire at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. in Harlem. Photo Credit: FDNY; John Hopper

A new FDNY report on the fire that claimed the life of firefighter Michael Davidson describes a cluttered and chaotic movie set filled with highly flammable materials as factors that contributed to the 15-year veteran’s death.

Davidson was assigned to run the nozzle on a hose line in the cellar of 773 St. Nicholas Ave. – a former jazz club converted into a movie set for the Edward Norton-directed film “Motherless Brooklyn” – in the early hours of March 23, 2018.

The 117-page FDNY Safety Command report, first obtained by the New York Daily News, details a harrowing and chaotic scene, as Davidson’s team was ordered to retreat from the burning building. The 37-year-old ran out of oxygen and likely became disoriented in the cluttered movie set as he inhaled the thick, toxic smoke around him.

When firefighters realized Davidson was missing, they went back in and found him unconscious and unresponsive near the bar in the basement.

Communications issues and false plywood walls that the FDNY was not aware of before entering the building were also cited in the report as contributing to Davidson’s death, per The Daily News. To  prevent a similar tragedy from happening again, the report recommended the city’s Office of Media and Entertainment notify the FDNY when production permits are issued.

Davidson, a legacy firefighter from Floral Park who was posthumously promoted to lieutenant, is survived by his wife and four children. His family was joined by hundreds of firefighters on Saturday, the anniversary of his death, for a plaque dedication ceremony at his Harlem fire station.


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