County Official To Examine Foam in Monte Carlo Casino-Hotel Fire

Clark County officials plan to examine the foam sculpting that burned in the Monte Carlo casino-hotel fire to determine whether there should be restrictions placed on its use.

Ron Lynn, director of Clark County Development Services, said he
wants samples of the damaged facade assembly shipped to a
laboratory to study how the foam burned.

"I will always look at enhancing the codes when it is warranted, so I am open to that possibility," Lynn said.

"It's premature to make a decision because I don't have all the samples yet from the Monte Carlo to see what burned."

The 3,002-room hotel was evacuated during the blaze, and eight
people were treated for smoke inhalation. The hotel remains closed
for repairs.

According to the Clark County Fire Department, the fire erupted after rooftop welders, constructing a walkway, allowed molten steel
fragments to fall onto the roof, causing a fire that spread to the hotel's facade.

The three-story-high wall, constructed largely of foam, hides rooftop machinery and gives the building's top a clean-looking finish.

The Monte Carlo, which opened in 1996, was constructed in accordance with the 1991 Uniform Building Code.

The regulations in that code that related to foam insulation products are virtually the same ones in the 2006 International Building Code, which applies today, said Mike Pfeiffer, senior vice president of technical services for the organization that writes the code.

Construction foam products, first used in Europe in the 1950s to insulate old masonry buildings, became popular in the United States
in the 1970s as the oil crisis forced builders to become more energy efficient.

The use of foam encountered rough going in the 1990s, when
homeowners sued the manufacturers, claiming poorly installed foam
installation systems allowed water seepage that promoted mold.

A foam-related fire occurred in Atlantic City in September at the Borgata hotel's Water Club, which was under construction. Much of the building's exterior foam was still exposed. As at the Monte Carlo, the damage to the club was mostly to the exterior, but it was extensive enough to delay the club's opening until at least this summer. The cause of that fire remains under investigation.

Pfeiffer said most changes in foam plastic insulation regulations from 1991 to 2006 have had to do with testing requirements for foam. There is no maximum allowable foam width in the code, but Pfeiffer said the width can be restricted if the foam in question does not meet certain fire performance standards.

"The code is always evolving when new issues are brought to light," he said.

Lynn, who has been in contact with the code council in the fire's aftermath, said one potential change in the codes would be new fire standards to account for foam pieces that are damaged, whether through construction or poor maintenance.

"Maybe the standards should take into account when the assembly is compromised," he said.
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Information from: Las Vegas Sun, http://www.lasvegassun.com

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

AP-NY-02-03-08 1505EST


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