Fire Breaks Out at Monte Carlo Resort on The Las Vegas Strip

By: By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY
By: By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY

A fire broke out Friday on the roof of the Monte Carlo hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip and quickly spread, forcing guests and employees to flee before firefighters got the upper hand, officials said.

"We have knock down," Clark County Fire Chief Steve Smith said.

Firefighters contained the fire within about an hour, he said, and no one was injured. Smith said he could not estimate damage to the 32-story hotel.

"As we go out of the danger zone, we'll methodically check each floor," Smith said. "No rooms are burning."

The three-alarm fire, which began just before 11 a.m., spread from the center section of the hotel across the roof line. Orange flames licked at the hotel's sign and plumes of thick black smoke poured from the rooftop of the resort. Flaming embers fell to the street below.

Clark County spokesman Eric Pappa said county officials were told welders were working on the roof of the building before the fire, but reports of workers trapped on the roof were incorrect.

The fire chief said once the fire was extinguished, investigators would begin trying to determine how the fire started. There was no immediate indication of criminal activity or arson, he said.

Smith called it an external fire, but said heat and smoke set off alarms and sprinklers inside the building. No rooms burned, he said.

The facade was made of a foam building material that "melted off the side of the building and started a few fires below," Smith said.

Smith said the fire was being fought inside the building by about 100 firefighters, not with ladder trucks.

Floors 25 to 32 were immediately evacuated, and lower parts of the hotel were still being cleared about 90 minutes later.

"The building is being evacuated," said Gordon Absher, spokesman for the hotel owner, MGM Mirage Inc.

"We've gone door to door evacuating the hotel," Absher said. "The casino is closed and secured."

Larry Wappel, 25, of San Pierre, Ind., said he and his brother, Eric Wappel, were in a room on the 30th floor when they heard housekeeping staff banging on doors and yelling "Fire, get out!"

He said it took about 10 minutes to walk single-file down the stairs to get to ground level.

Wappel said there was no panic.

"There were a couple of ladies crying, but it was pretty calm," he said.

Another guest, Renza Badilla, 45, said she exited through the hotel kitchen to find burning debris and embers falling from the roof.

"I think people were shocked when they saw the smoke," said Badilla, who said she was in the buffet on the main casino level when fire alarms sounded.

"We thought the fire alarms were just drills. But the wait staff and kitchen staff were really helpful getting us out through the kitchen," she said.

Guests were being taken to the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and employees were evacuated to the adjacent New York-New York hotel,
Absher said. Hotel officials said guests would be moved to other MGM Mirage hotels. They estimated the hotel was almost full and about 900 workers were on duty when the fire began.

As the fire burned, huge crowds formed on the Las Vegas Strip, and traffic was gridlocked as streets were blocked off around the hotel. Helicopters circled overhead.

The nearby resorts, Bellagio and New York New York were not
evacuated.

The Monte Carlo Resort & Casino, with 3,002 guest rooms and 211
suites in its upper floors, is on Las Vegas Boulevard, near Tropicana Avenue. It opened in June 1996.

The hotel, modeled after the Place du Casino in Monte Carlo, Monaco, was a joint venture between Steve Wynn's Mirage Resorts and
Circus Circus Enterprises.

It is now owned by MGM Mirage Inc. and is planned to be linked by a monorail that will connect it to the CityCenter casino complex and Bellagio to the north.

The Monte Carlo is down the street from the scene of Nevada's deadliest fire, a Nov. 21, 1980, blaze that killed 87 people at the old MGM Grand hotel and led to strict fire codes in Las Vegas resorts.

That hotel was rebuilt and sold in 1985 and renamed Bally's. It is now owned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc. The cause of the deadly fire was traced to an electrical malfunction in a refrigerated pastry case in the hotel deli.
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Associated Press Writers Howie Rumberg, Ryan Nakashima and Ken
Ritter contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-01-25-08 1613EST


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