North Brooklyn is reeling after a warehouse fire claimed the life of a beloved firefighter known in his Bushwick company for his heroism.
Lieutenant Richard Nappi — a 17-year Fire Department veteran and father of two — had a heart attack while battling a three-alarm blaze that ripped through a medical supplies warehouse on Flushing Avenue on Monday afternoon, leaving four other Engine 237 smoke eaters injured and gutting the two-story building, according to FDNY officials.
“He suddenly became unconscious and suffered cardiac arrest,” a spokesman for the agency said in a statement.
Nappi, 47, later died at Woodhull Medical Center.
Flames erupted inside the building at 1 pm, setting ablaze cardboard boxes on the first and second floors.
Neighbors said little smoke escaped from the nearly windowless commercial building, which also houses a restaurant supplies company near Evergreen Avenue.
“It smelled like campfire and burning plastic,” Alex Emmart, who lives across the street. “It must have been crazy in there.”
As his colleagues at the Morgan Avenue firehouse flew the flag at half-mast and raised the purple bunting, Mayor Bloomberg praised Nappi as a fearless and devoted hero who responded to World Trade Center attacks on his day off.
“You and I are alive today because of the work of Lieutenant Richard Nappi. Hundreds of New Yorkers are,” Bloomberg said at a press conference.
The Bronx native and Long Island resident was a former social worker, a Bruce Springsteen fan, and an Iona College alumni.
His former co-workers also told the New York Post he was a joy to work with.
“If you had a bad day, you would sit down with Rich for a few minutes and your whole day would turn around,” said Bob Hopkins, the fire chief in Suffolk County, his former employer.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, a spokesman for the agency said.
— with Aaron Short
Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.