Tragic news today from New York after a firefighter died while battling a blaze that broke out on the set of Edward Norton's film, Motherless Brooklyn, based on a Jonathan Lethem novel. The movie, starring and directed by Norton and also featuring Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe and Alec Baldwin, had been using an building in Harlem as one of the sets for the film.
Reports have surfaced that the fire began in the basement of the occupied building late Thursday night. While no filming was being done inside the building at the time, scenes were apparently being shot outside. NYFD firefighters quickly reacted to the scene. Sadly, Michael Davidson of Harlem’s Engine Company 69 was killed after reportedly being separated from other firefighters as he was trying to combat the flames.
The New York Post states that Davidson, a father of four young children, had gotten separated from his fellow firefighters and was unconscious when they discovered him after a mayday call was placed. It also stated that two other firefighters were hospitalized with serious burns, although not considered life threatening. FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro spoke about the incident to reporters:
“They went down the stairs to fight the fire with Davidson as nozzleman. The fire was too heavy. They were forced to retreat and as they backed out, he (Davidson) got separated from the rest of the unit. He was found unconscious on the floor and despite the best efforts of the FDNY and EMTs, they were unable to revive him.”
In an announcement about the death on their Facebook page, The New York City Fire Department wrote that Davidson had been cited four times for bravery in his 15 year career with the department.
According to law enforcement, it was Norton who spotted the smoke coming from the basement as he was setting up outside the building to shoot a scene. Producers on the film released a statement about the tragic events:
"Our deepest condolences to the family of Michael R. Davidson. A fire broke out tonight in the building where we were shooting our film. 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. 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. 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.
"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."
In addition to the two other firefighters who are being treated for their injuries, three civilians also sustained minor injuries. The fire was contained at about 2:30 am on Friday. The cause is still under investigation. Davidson is survived by his wife, Eileen and four children ages 7, 6, 3 and 1.