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FDNY firefighter killed in high-rise blaze

Duty Death: Lt. John H. Martinson - [New York, New York]

The Associated Press

Photo courtesy of FDNY
Lt. John H. Martinson

NEW YORK — A veteran fire lieutenant died in a blaze that sent smoke coursing through a high-rise apartment building and forced frightened residents to take refuge in their apartments rather than risk fleeing through the blackened hallways, officials and residents said.

Lt. John H. Martinson, 40, was found unconscious in the apartment where the fire began Thursday evening in a building on the site of the former Ebbets Field, officials said.

"He gave everything he had," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference late Thursday at Kings County Hospital Center, where Martinson had been taken. "His death really breaks the hearts of all of us."

Martinson was among more than 100 firefighters who worked to quell the blaze in the 25-story building on Bedford Avenue in the Ebbets Field Houses complex, named for the ballpark that was once home to the Brooklyn Dodgers. The cause of the fire was under investigation early Friday.

The blaze broke out in a 14th-floor apartment, but its residents had left the front door open, and that let smoke flow out into the 400-apartment building, Bloomberg said.

Ten stories away on the 24th floor, the smoke was so thick in the hallway that resident Basil Patrick turned back after opening his door.

"It's black out there," Patrick, 56, said by telephone Thursday evening.

Another resident of the building, Simon Black, said flames shot from the burning apartment's windows while smoke surged into the hallway.

"I don't know how they got in there," Black, 37, said of firefighters. "They're supermen."

Martinson was a city police officer for four years before joining the Fire Department in 1993. His late father had been a member of the department, and "he always wanted to be a firefighter like his father," said Thomas DeLisio, a longtime neighbor of the family's on Staten Island.

Martinson, his wife, Jessica, and their 22-month-old son, John Patrick, recently moved into what had been his grandfather's house, DeLisio said.

"It's a heartache," the neighbor said.

The cause of Martinson's death was under investigation, the fire department said. The department said a total of 10 other firefighters and civilians were hurt, but their injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Martinson was the first city firefighter to die in the line of duty since Aug. 18, when firefighters Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino were trapped in a blaze in the condemned former Deutsche Bank building at ground zero. On June 21, firefighter Daniel Pujdak fell to his death from a ladder near the top of a four-story Brooklyn building where he was tackling a fire.

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