NEW YORK-- A fire officer died last night after he became trapped in a smoky blaze in a Brooklyn high-rise.
Lt. John H. Martinson, 40, a decorated former NYPD cop, went into cardiac arrest in a smoke-filled 14th-floor unit at the Ebbets Field Apartments in Crown Heights.
A grim Mayor Bloomberg, who rushed to Kings County Hospital, called Martinson "somebody that we really should use the word 'hero' for."
Martinson was with the first company at the scene.
As the smoke grew more intense, his colleagues retreated from the apartment when they began to lose air, but he was unable to escape.
The fallen firefighter was found unconscious 10 to 15 feet inside the apartment by two members of another unit sent as reinforcements. Officials said Martinson had not broadcast a distress call.
Martinson suffered burns, but it's not clear why his heart failed - sources said he may have also lost his oxygen (sic) supply.
The firefighters who pulled him out suffered minor burns. Two other firefighters and six civilians also had minor injuries.
"I saw [firefighters] carried out on stretchers, with oxygen masks, and they were carrying them across the courtyard," said a 24th-floor resident.
Martinson - who served as a cop on Staten Island where he won a meritorious-service medal - died at the hospital. The son of a longtime firefighter, Martinson leaves a wife, Jessica, who was expecting their second child. They have a 22-month-old son, John Patrick.
"There was one thing the wife wanted me to say and it was the one thing I can't say - I can't bring back her husband," Bloomberg said.
Martinson, of Staten Island, was a 14-year FDNY veteran assigned to Ladder 249 in Flatbush and was a police officer for four years.
More than 100 firefighters answered the alarm, and the blaze, which started shortly after 7:15 p.m., took less than an hour to extinguish.
Still, residents said, it was powerful while it lasted.
Kadiatu Darri, 41, said she and her three children were trapped inside their apartment, next to the one that was ablaze.
"My son saw fire under the door," she said. "He started yelling, 'Mommy, the fire is coming!' I opened the front door, and all I saw was black smoke.
"I shut the door and called 911. I was so happy when the firemen came."
The terrified mom said the firefighters told her to stay inside. Other residents, uncertain what to do, did likewise.
"There was a lot of smoke coming in because of the draft," said a 60-year-old man who lives on the 21st floor. "If you opened the window, smoke gushed in; if you opened the door, smoke gushed in."
A 19th-floor tenant said, "I put on my coat and stood near the window. I have a fan. I turned it on and pointed it at the window."
The cause of the fire was not immediately known. It was not considered suspicious.
The building has had several fires in recent years, with the most dramatic in March 2006, when a firefighter had to be lowered from the roof to save a woman trapped on the ledge of a 25th-floor window.
Martinson is the first firefighter to die in the line of duty since two died of cardiac arrest when flames tore through the gutted Deutsche Bank building across from Ground Zero five months ago.
Republished with permission of The New York Post.
A public viewing will be held Sunday Jan. 6 and Monday, Jan. 7 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Casey McCallum Rice Funeral Home at 30 Nelson Ave., Staten Island, NY.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday Jan. 8 at 11 a.m. at St. Clare's RC Church at 110 Nelson Avenue, Staten Island, NY.