FDNY Firefighter Killed After Blaze Breaks out on Set of Edward Norton Film
A New York City firefighter died on Thursday while battling a 5-alarm blaze at a building in Harlem where Ed Norton was directing his new movie, Motherless Brooklyn.
Michael R. Davidson, a 37-year-old father of four assigned to Engine Company 69, was critically injured on the scene and “transported to Harlem Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries,” FDNY officials wrote on Facebook early Friday morning.
“It is with deep regret that FDNY announces the death of Firefighter Michael R. Davidson,” they added on Twitter — both social media posts coming with a photo of the late firefighter, who they say was “cited for bravery on four separate occasions.”
Davidson has “bravely served the Department for 15 years” and is “the 1,150th member to make the Supreme Sacrifice while serving our city,” the FDNY wrote.
He is survived by his wife Eileen and their four children — who, per a tweet from NYC Councilmember Mark D. Levine, are ages 7, 6, 3, and 1. Davidson’s father and brother are also firefighters.
“Our prayers are with the family of this hero,” Levine said.
According to CBS New York, the occupied building was built in the 1920s and was the location of the legendary St. Nick’s Jazz Pub, which was shut down in 2011.
Norton was filming earlier in the building for the 1950s-set drama, based on a book of the same name by Jonathan Lethem. The area in which the film was shooting was unoccupied.
The movie — which Norton also stars in alongside Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Mann and Willem Dafoe — tells the story of a private detective with Tourette’s Syndrome who seeks to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend.
New York City fire commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a news conference early Friday that the fire started in the basement of the buildings shortly before 11 p.m., The New York Times reported.
While the cause of the fire was still being investigated, Commissioner Nigro explained, “Conditions worsened after the hose lines were brought down to the cellar,” The New York Times reported. Davidson was first on the scene and was operating the fire hose nozzle but got separated from his fellow figherfighters when they pulled back from the raging inferno.
Photos posted on social media by locals on the scene showed flames coming through the roof.
In a statement provided to media outlets including PEOPLE, the film’s producers offered “deepest condolences” to Davidson’s family.
“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,” read the statement. “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,” the statement read. “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.”