Club members braved the icy conditions on Saturday as soon as word spread that a second alarm fire destroyed the beloved Newington Portuguese Club.
Firefighters were called to North Mountain Rd on the Newington and Hartford line at 2 p.m. on Saturday for a fire the originated in the basement of the Newington Portuguese Club, crept up to the second floor through the attic. Investigators told Eyewitness News that they are working to determine the cause of the fire.
Remnants of smoke billowed upward and yellow tape blocked the entrance of the Club as crews continued to extinguish any hot spots. A crowd of club members gathered to pay homage to the 90-year-old building that has over the years held banquets, birthdays, and weddings for decades.
"This place is very important to me," said Club member, Dan Reis who said he was married here just six months ago. "It’s a heartbreaking day today to see something like this, and it’s not just the Portuguese people in this area who rely on the club, it's the town of Newington, and this is a big loss. This is a very sad day."
Members said priceless trophies, ribbons, and pictures were lost to the fire. Items won by the folklore dance group, which is the oldest dance group in New England, were also lost.
"It’s devastating for our community, for our children. This is just where everyone gathers weekly. This is where we gather weekly for our folklore training and it’s devastating to see it like this," said Club Member Paula Bernardino.
Channel 3 learned that numerous events were planned for the end of the year that will be cancelled as a result of the damages.
"This is a pillar of our community. This is where we all congregate this is where we all come. Everybody who is Portuguese or in the Portuguese community knows the club. It is, it’s where we grew up. It just holds so many memories," reflected Portuguese Club Vice President, Ana Oliveira.
Dozens of the firefighters who answered the call to help today also have fond memories of the Portuguese Club.
"It’s hard for us because the club supports us. They allow us to use their hall every year and they don’t charge us. We have our awards program there, so, we have some 100 some people there for a big banquet awards banquet and they’ve taken care of us every year and now we’re here for them so," said Newington Fire Chief Chris Schroeder.
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