PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The group working to build a memorial at the site of a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people said Friday it has received the final permission it needs from the state and plans to start work in the spring.
The Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Transportation have approved the project, said Gina Russo, president of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation.
"It was a big deal for us and a big step," Russo said. "As we have learned over the last couple years, it's not an easy thing to do. Patience. It's all about patience. We know the families are struggling."
The blaze on Feb. 20, 2003, at The Station in West Warwick started when pyrotechnics for the band Great White set fire to flammable foam that had been placed throughout the club as soundproofing. More than 200 people were injured.
The foundation has been working since a few months after the fire to build a permanent memorial at the site to replace a makeshift one made up of handmade wooden crosses and personal mementoes. The group spent years securing ownership of the land, finally taking it over in 2012. Since then, the foundation has released final plans and continued to work to raise money and donations of materials and labor. It removed the makeshift memorial last year and closed the site to prepare for construction.
Russo said the group has about $200,000 in the bank and is still working to raise the $2 million it estimates it needs to build the memorial and maintain it in perpetuity. She said its biggest need is to find more people interested in donating to the project.
While the work still needs the final sign-off from the town of West Warwick, Russo said the town has embraced the project and she expects that to happen without any issues.
Among the group's first steps it plans to take once the weather warms up is to bring in gravel to smooth out the site, install wiring and put in a well system for irrigation. Once that is done, it will start landscaping, then work on monuments and a planned gazebo.
The foundation has said no digging will be done directly on the site of the nightclub so that human remains are not disturbed.