Rethinking Station Fire Memorial

A proposed memorial on the site of the Station fire in West Warwick, R.I., might be scaled down because of lack of contributions, concerns over upkeep and a lack of donations.

The site where 100 people died and 200 were injured after getting caught in a fire at a Great White concert is currently a makeshift memorial consisting of flowers, crosses, wreaths and photo of the victims. Last year, at the fifth anniversary commemoration of the Feb. 20, 2003, tragedy, the Station Fire Memorial Foundation unveiled blueprints for a permanent memorial.

The design included gardens, a courtyard, meeting house, a pool and memorial steps honoring survivors and others. It also included an “Aeolian harp bridge” with 100 strings running along both sides that would be played by the wind. The total cost was $1 million, which was expected to be offset in part by donations.

Since then, victims’ relatives are concerned with several aspects of the proposal. The lawn and greenery would demand upkeep, the open water could be a hazard to young children, and some building materials might not be durable.

“Where do you want to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, when we the board members are no longer here?” said Chris Fontaine, president of the memorial foundation, whose son died in the fire. “As beautiful as it is, it’s going to require a lot of maintenance.”

The leased property where the Station nightclub once stood is tied up in lawsuits over the fire and nothing could be built until it is turned over to the foundation. The original designers said they are no longer involved in the project and will accept the foundation’s prerogative to alter the plan.

Dave Kane, a foundation director who also had a son die in the blaze, said it was logical to assume that people’s interest would wane over time. The attendance at last February’s memorial service was less than in previous years.

“We’re trying to be smart about it and make something that would take less maintenance – not because we don’t care but because of the reality of taking care of it,” Kane said.