January 18, 2005 -- EXCLUSIVE

The family of the only city firefighter to die in a blaze since the Sept. 11 attacks has slapped the city with a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, alleging that the fallen smoke-eater's equipment gave out on him.

In court papers filed late last month, Margaret Brick, mother of firefighter Thomas Brick, claims her son's Personal Alert Safety System failed to warn his colleagues that he was trapped under a pile of mattresses inside a burning warehouse in upper Manhattan on Dec. 16, 2003.

"This young man was the father of two children who are left without a dad, to say nothing of the pain and suffering which he unfortunately went through," the family's attorney, Michael Block, told The Post.

Brick, 30, was left behind when members of Ladder Co. 36 evacuated the burning warehouse at 3859 10th Ave. in Inwood. When a head count indicated he was missing, firefighters raced back in but found him in cardiac arrest under the mattresses.

The Fire Department uses a device known as a Personal Alert Safety System, which emits a loud chirping sound when a firefighter remains stationary for more than about 30 seconds.

The alarm is hooked directly into firefighters' breathing masks and is automatically activated when the masks are turned on.

The Brick family declined to comment on the lawsuit, but Block said his investigation indicated that the doomed firefighter's PASS alarm either didn't function or functioned poorly.

The city Law Department said it had received the suit but declined to comment in detail on pending litigation.

"Obviously, it involves a very tragic situation and we will evaluate it thoroughly," said Thomas Merrill, the Law Department's tort-division chief.

The complaint cites no specific dollar figure for damages, but Block said any settlement or award should be "substantial"