|C. PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION
At approximately 1145 hours on November 21, 1980, an investigation into
the cause, origin and circumstances of this
fire began. Because of the rapid rate of smoke and flame spread, investigation
could not begin immediately. Destruction
due to fire decomposition, and the removal of those persons suffering
injury or death, delayed the actual investigation
several hours. Personnel assigned to the Fire Investigation Division
of the Clark County Fire Department
were all placed in fire suppression and/or rescue operations. As the
heat began to subside, Captain Wm. Mike Patterson
entered the suspected area of origin for his initial observations. It
was through his initial observations that the
following procedures were implemented.
First, security w,as established around the accessible areas that had
ingress and egress pathways to the Deli;
Second, the Task Force concept was implemented;
Third, assignments were given to individual Investigators for purposes
of correlation, preservation and investigation.
Their findings would ultimately be compiled into a single report.
First observations were directed to the total fire decomposition of the
southeast and northeast portion of the Deli.
This was due to partial structure collapse, fire decomposition of virtually
all combustible materials, fire and char patterns,
and heat distortion of metal framing and metal furnishings.
It was noted that the wall which separates the north portion of the Deli
and south portion of the coffee shop was void
of any coverings. It was obvious this had been a wall, but the only identifiable
remains were metal studs. Fire decomposition
was severe in this area, but not as total as the south wall of the Deli.
By observing the interior of the coffee
shop from the Deli, it initially appeared that unusual fire and char
patterns were visible in the southeast corner of the
coffee shop (see Diagram C, Section VI). Attention was given to this
Unlike the Deli, where virtually every piece of furniture had been consumed
by the progress of the fire, the coffee shop
sustained heavy fire decomposition primarily to the counter and, in general,
the southeast portion or corner. A large
worktable, constructed of stainless steel, ran the length of the south
wall, turned and ran north on the east wall, forming
an “L” shape. This table was, prior to the fire, affixed
to the south and east walls. Under this table, the remaining
portions of a wooden secondary shelf were observed; this shelf had sustained
heavy to severe fire decomposition. At
the east end of this shelf a fire pattern was observed at the second
shelf level, where the shelf terminated into a cubboard
or storage area. Concentrated efforts revealed no electrical source or
mechanical source of heat in this area; it
was later determined that a fire load consisting of napkins and other
common combustibles normally found in a
restaurant were stored in this area. The wall of the cupboard was constructed
of wood or equivalent cellulose material
believed to be plywood. This explained why the fire patterns appeared
as they did.
A second fire pattern became obvious to the O/Rs. This fire pattern was
located on the east wall, floor level of that
area north of the Orleans Room counter, next to the passageway opening
to the kitchen. Upon close observation and
consultation, it was determined there had been a linen disposal bag containing
cloth materials, which had been
suspended from a metal wire cable fastened to the wall. Upon attaining
that required amount of heat necessary to sustain
combustion, the bag and its contents fell, and the ensuing fire consumed
these articles. This lowered the fire and
char patterns to floor level, which initially appeared to indicate an
unknown area of origin.
It is now clear that neither of the areas described above were areas
of origin, but were simply extended fire patterns
from the path of the ensuing fire propagation, which extended from the
Deli to the Orleans Coffee Shop. It was later
determined, based upon witness interviews and the normal business routine
of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino, that
the Orleans Coffee Shop had indeed been open for business, and that there
had been approximately 50 guests sitting
around tables and at the coffee counter. The fire did not propagate from
the Orleans Room; however, it did propagate
from the Deli into the Orleans Room through its south wall and ceiling
area. Concentrated investigation efforts were
then returned to the area of the Deli (see Diagram D, Section VI).
D. DESCRIPTION OF THE DELI
The room of origin was that room identified as the Deli (see Diagram
A, Section VI). The Deli was one of five
restaurants located on the casino level, and was situated in the center
of the three restaurants on the east end of the
casino. The design of the restaurant was basically rectangular, with
the main entrance located on the west end of the
restaurant. The measurements were approximately 44 ft. wide and 82 ft.
long. The ceiling varied in height: the center
portion was approximately 11 ft. high; the booth areas (soffits) were
approximately 9 ft. high. The Deli construction
was protected non-combustible and unprotected non-combustible, with 2
in. x 4 in. metal frame wall studs, and
5/8 in. gypsum wallboard, which had been covered with assorted wall coverings
and ornamental trim consisting of
plastics, wood, cloth, tile, veneers and wall-to-wall carpet. This restaurant
would be classified as a “luxurious atmosphere”
The Deli was not sprinklered; heat and smoke detectors were not present.
At the incipient stage of this fire, the Deli
was prepared for regular business hours, which would have commenced at
0800 hours on November 21, 1980. This
was not a 24-hour restaurant, as was the Orleans Coffee Shop directly
to the north.
NOTE: The Orleans Coffee Shop was not sprinklered; however, the Barrymore
Room (the restaurant immediately
to the south of the Deli) was sprinklered.
The normal hours of business for the Deli were from 0800 to 0100 hours,
a total of 17 hours of each 24 hours. Typically,
the restaurant was cleaned and prepared for its next day of business
upon closing time. To the knowledge of the
O/Rs, no person(s) were in this room between the hours of 0100 and 0630,
except Mr. John Dodge (see statement,
E. AREA OF ORIGIN -
Based on initial reports from witnesses and observations by the O/Rs,
followed by interviews with firefighters, it was
determined that the area of origin was that portion of the MGM Grand
Hotel/Casino known as the Deli.
The O/Rs entered the Deli through the west main entrance. Available information
was sketchy; witnesses who could
offer firsthand accounts had not yet been located. No witnesses could
be found who could convey the vital information
required to begin this investigation accurately. Rumors were heard everywhere.
To complicate matters further,
firefighting activities were, in fact, still in operation at the west
end of the casino, and rescue efforts continued.
Smoke, the threat of building collapse, and related dangers were constantly
The first information Captain Patterson was able to discern indicated
the Deli had been vacant and closed for
business; initial reports also alleged that the adjoining restaurant
to the north (the Orleans Coffee Shop), as well as the
adjoining restaurant to the south (the Barrymore Room), had been closed
The kitchen was located east of and adjacent to the Deli restaurant.
For service purposes, an entryway was located on
the east wall of the Deli, opening into the kitchen. A wall constructed
of metal studs with 5/8 in. gypsum wallboard
and covered with assorted wall coverings and ornamental wood/plastic
trim, separated both the north wall (the coffee
shop side) and south wall (the Barrymore Room) of the Deli. There were,
in fact, three separate restaurants, each having
its own decor representing a different era, and each with its own passageways
for purposes of egress and ingress. It
was further observed that the Barrymore Room was sprinklered; the coffee
shop and deli were not.
The north wall, which separated the Deli from the south wall of the Orleans
Room, sustained heavy to severe fire
decomposition. Examination of the wall studs, fire and char patterns,
and direction of fire travel revealed that neither
side of this wall was the area of origin. Mechanical or electrical sources
of heat were not responsible for the fire consuming
this wall. It was concluded that the fire decomposition was a result
of the fire’s path of progress, which
preheated and consumed those common combustible materials located in
and around this wall.
Concentrated efforts were then directed to the east wall of the Deli.
Although the east wall of the Deli sustained severe
fire decomposition, it was obvious the greatest concentration of heat
was located at ceiling height, from the southeast
corner of the Deli to the center of the south wall, where side stand
#2 was located. The fire and char patterns observed
on the east wall were consistent with that of flame spread downward,
not upward. The typical fire “V” or cone patterns
were not there. Booths, designed in semi-circular style, were the primary
source of combustible material along
the east wall, and those fire patterns observed were not consistent with
those patterns common to a fire originating
from chair (booth) height. The east wall and the north wall were elminated
as areas of origin.
The south wall was then established as the next area of concentration,
particularly that cubicle commonly known as
The side stand, an appendage that protruded approximately 6 ft. to 8
ft. into the restaurant area, was rectangular in
design with a single passageway on the north wall, west corner. The passageway
did not have a door affixed to it. The
side stand was enclosed, with its center obstructed from public view
by a large built-in pastry display case. The side
stand was simply a waitress station, supplemental to the primary kitchen
facilities which were located in the extreme
northeast corner of the Deli. It was constructed of metal studs covered
with wall covering and assorted wallboards.
(For details on this area, see Diagram D, Seciton VI, and related information
compiled by Investigators Tom Klem of
the United States Fire Administration, and John Caloggero of the National
Fire Protection Association.)
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