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The Station nightclub fire: Memorial work to begin soon

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Feb. 21, 2003: Firefighters carry the remains of a victim through the burnt wreckage of "The Station" nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island.Reuters

The organization planning a memorial at the site of a Rhode Island nightclub fire that killed 100 people has struggled to raise money, but it pledged Sunday while marking the 11th anniversary of the blaze that it will break ground on the $1.4 million project as soon as weather permits.

At a memorial service, survivors, family and friends said they looked forward to renewing their efforts to raise the necessary money to construct and maintain a memorial park on the grounds of The Station nightclub in West Warwick, where a fire broke out on Feb. 20, 2003, when pyrotechnics during a Great White concert ignited flammable foam installed as soundproofing. More than 200 others were injured.

"The park will go forward, but it will take the community to make it happen," said Gina Russo, president of the Station Fire Memorial Foundation.

In a departure from past practice, Sunday's service was held inside council chambers at Warwick City Hall instead of at the site of the fire, which has been closed since the fall to prepare for work to build the memorial.

The foundation last year announced plans to build a permanent memorial, but it has struggled to raise the $1.4 million it says it needs to build and maintain it.

While it expects much of the materials and labor will be donated, it still has only around $200,000 in the bank as of this week.

Russo said that's enough to start construction as soon as the ground thaws. Meanwhile, the group said last week that it has hired a professional fundraiser to examine the project and is planning on detailing some of its plans during its annual meeting next month.

West Warwick Town Manager Fred Presley also affirmed his commitment to a permanent memorial.

"It's certainly an important project, and we're trying to do all that we can to help bring it to fruition," Presley said, adding that the town is working with the foundation to identify potential state and federal grant programs to contribute to the effort.

Once ground is broken, Russo said she expects construction will last anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

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