A cigarette butt tossed onto dry mulch ignited a fire that ripped apart a Foxborough community landmark as well as a moment that was supposed to last a lifetime.
“Literally as they were saying ‘I do’ we saw smoke,” Jerry Cibley, the justice of the peace who officiated a Saturday night wedding at the Lakeview Pavilion, said Sunday morning.
Cibley said guests tried to snuff out the flames with cups of water, and the DJ grabbed a fire extinguisher. Then, he said, they noticed smoke coming from a wall inside and everyone got out. When the old white building became engulfed in bright orange, it was evident they were not going back inside.
“The groom was beside himself. He was excited about his beautiful wedding and he didn’t know what to say or what to do — he was angry and emotional,” Cibley said.
The bride, he said, was quiet.
Foxborough fire officials said “careless disposal of smoking material” sparked the three-alarm fire that destroyed the 108-year-old venue, now reduced to charred rubble.
“It looks like a cigarette was thrown into some mulch and the fire erupted from there and spread to the building,” Deputy Fire Chief Steven Bagley said from the scene Sunday.
No injuries were reported among the roughly 100 guests.
The Foxborough Fire Department received an automatic alarm from the venue, east of Route 1, about 7 p.m. Saturday.
When firefighters arrived the smoke was heavy, and the fire quickly escalated to a third alarm, Bagley said Saturday night as smoke billowed across the parking lot and hoses atop three ladders doused the fire.
“The fire appeared to be spreading not only up the wall but through the ceilings and through a good part of the structure,” he said. “It’s an old building with an old wooden frame.”
Bagley said crews from about a dozen towns assisted.
All companies were working from the outside, Bagley said.
“It was unsafe to send anyone in,” he said.
The building did not have sprinklers. “Water supply was a little bit of a problem, but we were able to draft out of the pond next to us here,” he said.
Late Saturday, Bagley said the fire had been knocked down, but crews were still looking for hot spots.
“We are devastated about the loss of the building in the fire last night but are so relieved that no one was injured,” Terry Memmo, a Lakeview Pavilion event coordinator, said in a statement. “Our first priority right now is making sure that all of our brides and grooms and other special events are accommodated.”
Memmo said in the statement that the pavilion plans to work with couples scrambling to make other arrangements from a temporary office on site early this week.
Other local venues have reached out to assist stranded brides and grooms.
Officials from the Cruiseport Gloucester said they planned to offer discounted rates to any couple whose upcoming nuptials were booked at the Lakeview Pavilion.
Lake Pearl in Wrentham has also given coordinators a list of available dates.
“We’re gonna do whatever we can to make their dream come true,” said Pat White, Lake Pearl’s general manager.
The Lakeview Pavilion was demolished Sunday.
“Certainly the memories will last a lifetime for everybody,” Cibley said. “I’m just glad I was able to marry my couple.”