.Vegas fire led
to safety upgrades
09:11 AM CDT on Saturday, September 30, 2006
Starting today and going through the month of October,
I will be writing about Fire Prevention Week, which
is Oct. 8-14, and covering historical events in the
fire service that have brought about change in the
fire prevention industry.
This past week I was lucky enough to be invited to
attend an Emergency Medical Service Expo in Las Vegas.
While I was there, it dawned on me how much influence
an event from more than 25 years ago has had on the
fire service and our lives today.
Quick history lesson: On Nov. 21, 1980, just after
7 in the morning, a small fire started in a deli at
MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.
Read the Clark County Fire Department's report into
the 1980 MGM Grand Hotel fire
It spread quickly. Before the fire could be extinguished,
85 lives would be lost and 679 more people would be
injured. This was the second-largest loss of life
in a hotel fire in history. About 300 firefighters
from area departments responded to the scene.
Several factors played into the large number of deaths
and injuries. One of the main factors was that the
hotel was only partially protected by sprinkler systems.
Areas with sprinklers had little to no damage from
the fire. Another problem was that smoke was able
to travel freely throughout the hotel with little
to stop it. Most of the deaths were from smoke inhalation
and carbon monoxide poisoning from people on the hotel's
What good came from this event? Life safety and building
codes now require sprinkler systems and air handling
units to be installed throughout hotels. Elevators
now lock and return to the lobby during emergencies
to avoid trapping people.
If you are staying in a newer hotel, you probably
don't notice the sprinklers down every hallway, in
every room, even in the closet of your hotel room
– but they are there. They are in breezeways,
carports, auxiliary areas of hotels, casinos and other
gathering points, silently standing ready to respond
to the next fire.
Next time you take a trip, look around and see what
kind of fire safety systems you can find, from fire
extinguishers and fire exits to fire sprinklers and