Lessons learned from past Las Vegas fires

LAS VEGAS - Las Vegas hotel owners learned a difficult lesson after two deadly fires back in the 1980's. Since then, fire and buildings codes have come a long way to prevent injuries and deaths during an emergency.

The Thursday night blaze a roof at the world famous Bellagio hotel was the latest fire to cause damage to a resort property.

"You always worry about the high-rises and stuff," said Jamie Santillo, a visitor staying on the Las Vegas Strip. "It's kind of scary actually."

In 2015, black smoke consumed the iconic Las Vegas skyline after a cigarette butt caused a foam palm tree to burst into flames at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Then rewind to 2008 when frantic visitors called 911 to report a fire at the Monte Carlo. The decorative exterior, also made of foam, on the top floor was damaged.

Although there were minor injuries during some of these fires, there were no deaths. Clark County leaders and first responders credit stricter fire codes.

"In the 80's I will tell you, some of the biggest progressions have to do with fire code," said Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan, Clark County Fire Dept.

In 1980, an electrical fire at the MGM left 85 people dead.

Three months later, another blaze killed 8 people at the Las Vegas Hilton. The two incidents forced Strip properties to make major changes which included adding sprinkler systems, audible fire alarm announcements and pressurized stairwells that keep smoke out, providing a clear escape route.

The latest fire at the Bellagio was contained to the exterior, allowing fire crews to put out the flames in 19 minutes.

"I always thought about how the fire department would put something like that out," said Santillo said.

Following the deadly 1980's fires, the fire department changed how it responded to fires. When a hotel reports a fire, many more resources respond.

"The initial response is five engines, two truck companies, three rescues, they'll be 2 battalion chiefs," Buchanan said.

That's double the personnel who respond to a typical structure fire. There is also a specific plan followed when firefighters get on the scene.

The first crew accesses the situation and a second crew finds the origin of the fire. A battalion chief is in charge and assigns tasks that include staging and crowd control. The fire crews are constantly training for hotel fires.

"They do countless hours and countless sets and repetitions to hone their craft and make sure that they're ready they pre-plan all of these high rises and all of these hotels," Buchanan said.

Most recently, fire crews were using the Riviera for training before it was imploded.

 


 


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