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Feb. 21, 2003

Deaths, injuries in fire at R.I. club

WEST WARWICK, R.I. - A huge fire that engulfed a Warwick nighclub killed a number of people and injured scores more late last night during a rock concert.

A West Warwick firefighter said there were multiple deaths in the fire at The Station on Cowesett Avenue.

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More than 150 people were injured, many of them critically, and were rushed to area hospitals. The fire started in the one-story wood structure during a pyrotecnics display, officials said, and some patrons - mostly young people - were trapped inside, fire officials said.

The building was fully engulfed within minutes.

More than 50 ambulances carried injured people from the nightclub to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence and Kent County Memorial Hospital in neighboring Warwick.

The tragedy follows by only days a disastrous emergency at a Chicago night club that left 21 people dead. In that case, many were trapped in the building.

Witnesses said as many as 400 people, gathered to hear the band Great White and others, had thought that the large fire was part of the pyrotecnics involved with the concert.

The building was still in flames after 1 a.m.

The Providence Journal was reporting a horrific scene in which rescuers carried dozens of scorched victims on stretchers. Other victims were hanging from windows of the club begging for help.

Fire crews from all over Rhode Island and Massachusetts responded. The nearby Cowasett Inn was used a triage center for dozens of victims.

“It was skin just falling off people,” said Rick Reynolds, who lives on the same street as the club. “It was one of the worst things you ever saw in your life. The skin was just falling off of people.”

Nearby residents, including Reynolds, helped remove victims and take them to the Inn, where people were collecting blankets and table cloths.

The Red Cross was on the scene. An emergency phone line was set up for families to call for information on identifying those injured in the blaze.

Thursday’s performance at The Station was scheduled to feature rock bands Great White, Jack Russell and Fathead.

Material from Associated Press was used in this report.
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