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Auburndale family sues city over death of firefighter

By Cynthia Koons

Thomas Brick, who died fighting a fire in Upper Manhattan, was trapped under a burning mattress where he was found severely burned and in cardiac arrest on Dec. 16, 2003.Brick, 30, was a two-year veteran of the Fire Department and a longtime resident of 195th Street and 42nd Avenue in the Auburndale section of Flushing. He was the first firefighter to die in the line of duty following Sept. 11, 2001.His family filed suit in Queens Supreme Court last month against the city and the landlords of the warehouse contending that the PASS alarm, which was part of his mask, did not sound when he was trapped.PASS (which stands for personal alert safety system) alarms are inside firefighters' headgear and give off a low tone if the rescue worker does not move for an extended period of time. “If a person stands still for 20 seconds, you get a low tone. If he continues to stand still, you get a loud tone,” a fire official said. He could not comment further because litigation is pending. He did not know if the Fire Department had completed its investigation into Brick's death and referred all calls on the subject to the city law department.”This was a tragic case and we are reviewing the legal papers thoroughly,” said City Counsel Thomas Merrill, deputy chief of the Tort Division. “It would be inappropriate to comment further due to pending litigation.” The family's attorney, Michael Block, said there is no dollar value attached to the suit because the law does not allow attorneys to request financial sums.He did, however, say the case was substantial and warranted at least a seven-figure dollar amount for the family.Brick is survived by his two children, Madeline and Aden, who were both toddlers at the time of his death; his parents, Margaret and Thomas Brick; his sister Megan; and his brother Christopher. “The children miss their father very much. He was absolutely very devoted to them,” Margaret Brick said two weeks ago. “He was always on the floor, he was like another kid playing with him.”She did not return calls about the suit but did talk extensively about his life after he was honored with a plaque in his firehouse in December on the one-year anniversary of his death.Margaret Brick said in December that her son had applied to be a firefighter twice before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and was working at a resort in Pennsylvania when he was called to duty.”If anyone benefitted from 9/11, it was him because it enabled him to get into the Fire Department at that time,” she said. “He got his wish.”Brick, who joined the Fire Department on Oct. 28, 2001, was in the first graduating class after the Sept. 11, 2001.He was known in the FDNY for his heroics beyond the fatal rescue attempt last December. On his first day on the job, he helped save six people from a blaze in Washington Heights.His ladder company, No. 36, received the Thomas R. Elsasser Memorial Medal for rescuing the occupants of a five-story multiple dwelling on 187th Street in Manhattan during that fire in January 2002, a fire department spokesman said.”The memorial will forever serve as a reminder to all those that enter this firehouse of the dedication and enthusiasm that Tommy had for his job and his fire house family,” Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said at the Dec. 16 ceremony.The court papers were served on the city Jan. 7, giving it 20 days to respond to the suit. The city law department expects to have its response by Jan. 27.Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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