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Guests Told To "Get Out" As Fire Burns Las Vegas Hotel

LAS VEGAS - A high-rise hotel on the Las Vegas strip caught fire on Friday, sending guests and gamblers fleeing from the casino -- and invoking memories of the old MGM Grand fire that killed nearly 100 people almost 30-years ago.

The blaze erupted on the upper floors of the Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino at approximately 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time, engulfing the top five levels of the building. Flames at least 15 feet high could be seen rising from the hotel's roof and black plumes of smoke were seen from several miles away.

The Monte Carlo, which is owned by MGM-Mirage, has a little more than 3,000 rooms and it is virtually assured that at least a few guests were staying on the upper floors when the fire started. However, hotel officials say no guests were in immediate danger as the flames never directly penetrated the main lodging areas. Investigators were trying to determine whether any of the luxury suites on the hotel's upper level were breached by the flames.

One report said that four hotel workers became trapped on the roof of the building, but the Las Vegas Fire Department chief later said that report was untrue. Aerial video also showed firefighers on the hotel's roof dousing the flames with water hoses.

Five people were hospitalized following the fire, mainly with breathing difficulties but officials said the injuries resulted from the evacuation rather than the fire itself.

The hotel immediately issued a mandatory evacuation following the fire. Two brothers from Indiana were in a room on the 30th floor when they heard hotel officials banging on the doors yelling, "Fire! Get out!"

Video taken of the incident, at least initially, suggested that no other structures were affected by the fire.

Smoke rises after a fire broke out at the Monte Carlo hotel and casino in Las Vegas , Friday, Jan. 25, 2008. The fire, which was reported around 11 a.m., was spreading from the center section of the hotel across the roof.

Approximately 90 minutes after the fire started, hotel officials claimed that the flames were confined to the building's west wing and were under control. Subsequent video of the hotel confirmed that the smoke and flames had nearly been extinguished.

The building's actual casino was never affected by the flames and officials say the fire never burned beneath the top five floors.

"They contained this very quickly and there were no injuries," said Clark County, Nev. official Jennifer Knight. "Everybody did a very good job in getting to this very quickly."

A portion of the Monte Carlo's facade burned quickly and actually fell off the building but it is not believed that the debris caused any injuries. The facade was made of a foam building material that "melted off the side of the building and started a few fires below," according to Clark County, Nev. Fire Chief Steve Smith.


A portion of Las Vegas Boulevard, known as "the Strip," near the Monte Carlo was completely closed for almost two hours so emergency response teams could effectively make entrance to the building.
A satellite image of Las Vegas Blvd. shows where the Monte Carlo is located, just west of Las Vegas Blvd. (The Strip). (Image: Google Maps)
A high rise building has been under construction directly adjacent to the Monte Carlo for several weeks, although it was not immediately known whether that may have played a factor in the fire.

Officials with Clark County, Nev. said Friday afternoon that construction welders were actually on top of the Monte Carlo's roof prior to the fire though it was not known whether that may have contributed to the blaze.

The Monte Carlo is located between the New York, New York Hotel & Casino and the Bellagio -- all three of which are owned by the same corporation, MGM-Mirage.

"Our primary focus is the safety of our guests and employees," said MGM-Mirage Vice President Gordon Absher. "We will take care of them."

Absher also said guests of the Monte Carlo were being sent to the nearby MGM Grand Garden arena and would receive accommodations at one of the company's other properties.

The Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino was constructed in 1995 and opened on June 21, 1996. Initially named the "Grand Victoria" -- the hotel became one of the city's premier properties at the time. With a European luxury-styled theme, the $344 million hotel became known for its amenities and high-profile nightly show featuring world-renowned magician Lance Burton.
The MGM Grand Hotel caught fire on Nov. 21, 1980 due to faulty electrical wiring in a kitchen area. 84 People died and 785 were injured in what became the worst disaster in Nevada history. (Photo: Robert Stanzler)
Friday's fire is not the first in Las Vegas' history. Nearly 100 people were killed on Nov. 21, 1980 when the old MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (now Bally's) caught fire in what became the worst disaster in Nevada history. The cause of that fire was later determined to have started in the kitchen area.

Less than three months later, on Feb. 11, 1981, a devastating fire erupted at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel while the building was being retrofitted with modern fire safety equipment. Eight people died in the Hilton fire which was later determined to have been started by an arsonis

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