WEST FARMS, N.Y. (PIX11) – On the 33rd anniversary of one of the deadliest fires in New York history, a group from the Bronx has vowed to never forget.
The Happy Land fire happened on March 25, 1990, in the Bronx’s West Farms community. It was a horrific blaze, started by an arsonist, that took the lives of 87 innocent people who were celebrating in the Happy Land Social Club.
In honor of those who died, on a rainy Saturday in the Bronx, hundreds marched from a church ceremony to a memorial site at East Tremont Avenue and Southern Boulevard, where a monument to the victims was built.
The memorial event was organized by Bronx Community Board 6.
The Happy Land fire led to several new laws and safety changes in New York to prevent future tragedies.
More than three decades ago, investigators said an angry ex-boyfriend of one of the club’s employees set the building on fire while around 100 people were inside. The act of arson would become one of New York’s deadliest.
Happy Land wasn’t even supposed to be open when the fire happened. The club was ordered shut down about two years before the fire due to several serious building code violations, like a lack of fire exits, alarms and sprinklers. There was only a single staircase leading in and out of the club. That’s where the arsonist started his fire.
Authorities said most of the 87 people died from suffocating in smoke while trying to escape.
Police tracked down and arrested the arsonist Julio González the next day, on March 26, 1990.
González died of a heart attack in 2016 while serving his sentence in prison.