City celebrates fallen firefighter with Queens roots

Firefighter across the city mounred the death of Lt. Michael Davidson on March 27 after he was killed in a Harlem basement fire.
Photo by Seth Wenig/AP
By Mark Hallum

Members of FDNY celebrated the life and sacrifice of one of their own, Lt. Michael Davidson, after the 15-year veteran who grew up in Queens was killed quelling a blaze in Harlem last week.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan was filled with mourners Tuesday as FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro and Mayor Bill de Blasio extolled the Floral Park resident’s natural leadership abilities and talents as a firefighter with Engine Co. 69.

“Many nights Mike led his company into a fire toward the danger, using his remarkable abilities and talents to extinguish the fire. On one occasion, in particular, very early in his career, with only two years on the job, he showed the incredible tenacity he possessed battling a growing third-alarm fire on multiple floors. Mike pushed forward, crawling and inching room by room to knock down the fire on the third floor,” Nigro said. “It was clear from the very beginning of his career that he was special. He showed it that night, he showed it every day of his 15 years of brave service.

“Mike commanded every situation and led his fellow firefighters into battle. He wasn’t their captain, he wasn’t their lieutenant, but he was without question a leader.”

Davidson, 37, was posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant since he had passed the exams in 2015 and was awaiting an open position.

He was the 1,150th FDNY member to have died on the job as he tried to find his way out of a smoky basement of a building converted to a film set during the five-alarm fire that broke out in Harlem March 23.

The tragedy follows the deaths of FDNY members and reservists Lt. Christopher J. Raguso, of Division 13 in Richmond Hill, and Fire Marshal Christopher T. “Tripp” Zanetis, of Long Island City. They were two of seven killed in helicopter crash on March 15 during an American military operation in Iraq.

Davidson served as “nozzle man” and was first into the building. The medical examiner determined he died of smoke inhalation. He left behind his wife Eileen and four children.

The firefighter grew up in Sunnyside’s Phipps Houses and attended St. Sebastian’s Catholic Academy. He graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood.

“Michael made this city great through his actions every day and for him it was not just enough to serve, he exhibited so many forms of leadership. He was a cornerstone, a cornerstone of his company as the nozzle man, cornerstone of his wonderful community, Floral Park. A firefighter’s firefighter, an example to everyone, someone the rookies looked up to and learned from,” de Blasio said.

“To Michael’s children, to Brooke, to Joseph, to Emily, to Amy, this is a difficult, painful, confusing time for young people there’s so much to wonder about. Let me offer you a personal thought. I had a dad who wore a uniform and served with pride as well, lost him too early in life as well. One thing you will find that you will remember your father as a hero, you’ll remember his goodness, in your own moments of challenge, in your moments of doubt. Your father will be there with you.”

De Blasio’s father was a World War II veteran who committed suicide when the mayor was 18 years old.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) recognized Davidson’s origins in his district with a moment of silence at a town hall meeting at PS 150 the night prior to the firefighter’s funeral.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose district covers Manhattan, paid his respects to Davidson in a statement.

“This is a tragic day for New York City. Michael R. Davidson was a 15-year FDNY veteran whose service for our city included four separate instances in which he was cited for bravery,” Johnson said. “My deepest condolences to his wife, Eileen, and their four children. They lost a husband and father, and New York lost a true hero whose life was dedicated to keeping us safe.”

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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