The raging Brooklyn fire that killed an FDNY officer started when a young boy ignited wrapping paper on a stovetop flame the family was using for heat - and then hid the burning debris under his bed, sources said yesterday.
That set off a chaotic chain of events, culminating in the death of Lt. John Martinson, 40, an adored 14-year veteran who had a 22-month-old son and a child on the way with his wife, Jessica.
"John Martinson went in first - always," Capt. Thomas Reilly said while surrounded by 60 firefighters outside Engine 249, Ladder 113 in Crown Heights.
"He led by example in every aspect of his life."
Martinson was in the first unit of about 100 firefighters who responded to the 14th-floor blaze at 1700 Bedford Ave. on Thursday around 7 p.m.
A short time earlier, one of the twin 6-year-old boys in apartment 14M torched a piece of wrapping paper with an open flame on the stovetop, which was being used for heat, FDNY sources said.
He ran to his bedroom and stuck the paper under the bed, leaving a trail of embers his mom followed to the spreading fire. She tried but failed to douse it with water.
Fire and smoke filled the 125-foot hallway, impeding the first responders' path to the apartment.
After fighting their way through the smoke into the apartment, the Bravest began to battle the blaze head on.
But the smoke became overwhelming and the firefighters, who were losing air, had to retreat.
"It looks like the whole company was running out of air," a source said. "Everyone else got out, but [Martinson] didn't."
"He ran out of air," said another official.
Martinson was found unconscious by two firefighters 10 to 12 feet inside the apartment, and died of burns and smoke inhalation at Kings County Hospital, according to the Medical Examiner's Office.
The hero's face was burned, indicating that his mask was off, according to the official.
"Once you take your mask off, you get a big shot of carbon monoxide," the official said.
The Scott Air-Paks that firefighters use are generally good for 45 minutes, but the length of time they last depends on the size of the firefighter and his exertion.
Republished with permission of The New York Post.
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