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Firefighters Mourn Lt. Richard Nappi's Death in Bushwick Blaze

By Meredith Hoffman | April 17, 2012 5:19pm
Richard Nappi, a 17-year veteran of the FDNY, died in a fire at 930 Flushing Ave. in Brooklyn on April 16, 2012.
Richard Nappi, a 17-year veteran of the FDNY, died in a fire at 930 Flushing Ave. in Brooklyn on April 16, 2012.
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BUSHWICK — Firefighters Tuesday mourned the loss of Lt. Richard Nappi, a 17-year FDNY veteran who died battling a massive Bushwick warehouse fire Monday.

Colleagues said Nappi — who led members of Engine 237 into Monday's three-alarm fire at 930 Flushing Ave., before becoming overwhelmed by heat and smoke — was a source of inspiration on the job.

"He was the type of guy that made his job easier and everyone's jobs easier," said Capt. James Hurley, Nappi's boss, according to an FDNY spokesman.

"He was a devoted firefighter for 17 years and was always ready to teach a fellow firefighter."

Purple and black bunting was draped across the entrance to the firehouse at 43 Morgan Ave. and the flag flew at half mast.

Another Engine 237 member, Lt. Tom Minelli, said Nappi — a Long Island resident and the father of two young children, Catherine, 12, and Nicholas, 11— was exemplary both in his work and family life.

"Lt. Nappi was a devoted family man. He had just attended the Home Opener at CitiField with his family," said Minelli. "He led by example, always stepped up. He was a true leader in the firehouse."

Nappi died of an apparent heart attack battling the stubborn three-alarm blaze after overheating and collapsing, officials said.

He was conscious while medics were working on him, but later died at Woodhull Hospital. The Medical Examiner's office will determine the official cause of death.

A representative for the Uniformed Fire Officers Association said Nappi's death spoke to the risk every firefighter takes when they sign up for the job.

"We all will keep his loving wife Mary Anne and their two wonderful children, 12-year-old Catherine and 11-year-old Nicholas, in our thoughts and prayers," a statement from the union said. "Never forget that the 'line of work' that firefighters and police officers engage in puts them constantly in harm’s way.  Sadly it also puts their families at grave risk."

Nappi, a 47-year-old Bronx native, was the city's first fireman to die in action since Paul Warhola died in 2009 in a Williamsburg fire.

Before joining the FDNY in 1994, Nappi was a Suffolk County parole officer and a caseworker for the Suffolk County Department of Social Services.

The fire on Flushing Avenue, which burned for three hours until being brought under control at 4 p.m., also injured eight other firefighters.

One was seriously hurt from smoke inhalation but expected to survive, and the others suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

Aaron Klein, the owner of the building according to property records, declined to comment on the fire when he was reached by phone.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, FDNY officials said.