A woman was arrested Wednesday on arson and
murder charges after a fire swept through a three-story hotel in
Reno's downtown casino district, killing six people and injuring
dozens of others.
Police Chief Michael Poehlman said Valerie Moore, 47, set fire
to a mattress in her room at the Mizpah Hotel. Officials were still
trying to determine a motive.
The first victim was found about 90 minutes after the fire was
reported, shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday, Fire Chief Paul Wagner
said. He said a search later turned up five more victims and more
could still be in the rubble of the historic hotel.
Police estimated that when the fire started, 60 to 80 people
were inside the 84-year-old brick building, a primarily residential
hotel that had been recently renovated.
The blaze quickly engulfed the hotel's north wing, which covers
most of a city block just east of Harrah's. None of the downtown
high-rise hotel-casinos was threatened, Poehlman said.
A few residents jumped to safety from windows as the hotel
burned. Others were rescued by firefighters with ladders and city
workers who were in the area with a cherry picker. About 30 people
were injured, some from jumping. The building's roof collapsed in
Third-floor resident John Hicks said he saw one person jump from
a window and land on a metal trash bin.
"I lost my clothes, I lost everything. It spread so fast I
could have died," Hicks told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "The
flames were getting into my room. I'm lucky to be alive."
The Mizpah was built in 1922 and added to the National Register
of Historic Places in 1984.
"It was just gorgeous, and now it's all gone," said general
manager Sharon Steele.
Fire Department spokesman Steve Frady said the hotel was
equipped with smoke alarms but did not have sprinklers, which was
allowed by city code because of the building's age.