New York City

Harlem Movie-Set Inferno That Killed Firefighter Michael Davidson Was Sparked by Heat From Boiler Pipe: FDNY

What to Know

  • Fire marshals have determined the Harlem movie-set fire that killed Lt. Michael Davidson in March was caused by heat from a boiler pipe
  • The heat ignited nearby combustible materials in the cellar of 773 St. Nicholas Ave. according to FDNY
  • The investigation also found the building's sprinkler system had been shut off and did not activate

The movie-set inferno that killed a New York City firefighter inside a Harlem building in March was sparked by heat from a boiler ventilation flue pipe, fire officials say.

FDNY marshals said Tuesday that the heat from the boiler pipe ignited nearby combustible materials in the cellar of 773 St. Nicholas Avenue on March 23. The building's sprinkler system had been shut off, and as a result, the sprinkler system couldn't activate when the fire spread to the rest of the building from the cellar (which did not have sprinklers installed).

Fire-resistant materials had also been removed from the first-floor restaurant and nightclub, which exacerbated fire conditions as the blaze spread from the cellar, the fire marshals said. 

Firefighter Michael R. Davidson was killed in the fire. His death is also being investigated by the FDNY's Safety Command. The medical examiner previously ruled the 15-year veteran of the FDNY had died of smoke inhalation. 

The 37-year-old Davidson, a Queens native and a Long Island resident, was posthumously promoted to lieutenant. He left behind his wife and four young children -- a son and three daughters. His father is retired from the FDNY and his younger brother Eric is also a New York City firefighter. 

The basement of the building was being used at the time as the set of "Motherless Brooklyn," which is being directed by Ed Norton and stars Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Leslie Mann.

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