Memorial to nightclub fire that killed 100 closer to $2M goal; completion expected next year

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WEST WARWICK, Rhode Island — The slow road to build a permanent memorial at the site of a nightclub fire that killed 100 people 12 years ago is getting shorter, as organizers said they are inching closer to raising the $2 million they need to complete it.

The Station Fire Memorial Foundation has now raised $1.3 million after recently receiving several large donations, and the end is in sight for the yearslong effort, organizers said this month.

"By this time next year, we should be done," said Jody King, whose brother, Tracy, was killed in the blaze.

The 2003 fire in West Warwick was started when the rock band Great White set off pyrotechnics inside The Station nightclub, which had flammable foam lining its walls and ceiling as soundproofing. More than 200 people were injured.

A temporary memorial cropped up on the site shortly after the fire, with handmade crosses and personal mementoes. The memorial foundation secured ownership of the land in 2012 and began to actively raise funds, but that effort got a slow start.

The pace has picked up recently after multiple donations of $50,000 to $150,000, fundraiser Daniel Barry said. Around $500,000 of the total is in-kind donations of goods and services from trade unions, construction companies and other groups, he said.

Among the donors is the Rhode Island Foundation, which with United Way gave $150,000. Both groups helped to aid victims' families and survivors after the fire. While they don't typically fund memorials, Rhode Island Foundation president and CEO Neil Steinberg said they chose to support this one because of their history with those affected.

"We thought it was fitting, we thought it was appropriate, and we thought it was something we could do to permanently memorialize this tragic event and the victims," Steinberg said.

The site was closed more than two years ago to begin work on the project. Construction started over the summer. Workers have smoothed out the land and done extensive work on the parking area. Next year, they will install landscaping, monuments and an open-air gazebo.

They will not dig on the site where the nightclub burned to the ground for fear of disturbing human remains.

The memorial foundation's president, Gina Russo, said she was excited about the positive feelings the project is creating. Russo was severely burned in the fire and lost her fiance, Fred Crisostomi.

"We're trying to build it so we can heal in some way," she said.

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