Down­town apart­ment fire kills six, in­jures 13

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - NATION + WORLD - By Michelle L. Price, Paul Daven­port and Marc Levy

LAS VE­GAS >> A fire in a three-story apart­ment build­ing in down­town Las Ve­gas where res­i­dents were ap­par­ently us­ing their stoves for heat killed six peo­ple and forced some res­i­dents to jump from up­per-floor win­dows to es­cape the heavy smoke be­fore dawn Satur­day, au­thor­i­ties said.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­ported that the fire started around a first-floor unit’s stove and that res­i­dents had told them that there was no heat in the build­ing, which sits a few blocks from down­town Las Ve­gas’ touristy Fre­mont Street District.

Res­i­dents re­ported awak­en­ing to pound­ing on doors around 4 a.m.

By the time Matthew Sykes got his clothes on to flee, one end of his se­cond-floor hall­way was choked with thick black smoke, as was a stair­well, mak­ing it im­pass­able for he and his wife.

“The whole place was like one big black cloud of smoke — couldn’t get down the stairs,” Sykes told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Fire­fight­ers ar­riv­ing at the scene be­gan treat­ing in­jured and us­ing lad­ders to res­cue nu­mer­ous peo­ple al­ready jump­ing or hang­ing from win­dows, fire de­part­ment spokesman Tim Szy­man­ski said.

“The first thing that you think of is: We’ve got to res­cue those peo­ple. A fall of 16 feet or higher can be fa­tal.”

Thir­teen peo­ple were in­jured, mostly from smoke in­hala­tion, but vic­tims also had frac­tures, in­clud­ing one with bro­ken legs and pos­si­bly a bro­ken back, Szy­man­ski said. It wasn’t im­me­di­ately known if any of the deaths were from peo­ple who jumped from win­dows. No fire­fight­ers were in­jured.

The cause of the fire ap­peared to be ac­ci­den­tal, and the fire was largely con­tained to the first-floor unit where it started in the stove area, Szy­man­ski said.

Dis­placed res­i­dents told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that some had been us­ing their apart­ment’s stoves for warmth be­cause the build­ing lacked heat, he said. Tem­per­a­tures overnight have been dip­ping into the high 30s, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice. Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Chris Out­ler says the low was 40 de­grees Sun­day.

A woman an­swer­ing the phone at the of­fice of the en­tity listed as the build­ing’s owner, Las Ve­gas Dragon Ho­tel LLC in Las Ve­gas, told the AP she was told not to com­ment. She said she would leave a mes­sage for Adolfo Orozco, the man listed in state in­cor­po­ra­tion records as the business’ man­ag­ing mem­ber.

Szy­man­ski said fire­fight­ers re­ported hear­ing smoke alarms go­ing off, but not fire alarms. The State Fire Mar­shal’s Of­fice will in­ves­ti­gate for code vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing any in­volv­ing fire alarms, he said.

The city’s code en­force­ment of­fice did not im­me­di­ately re­turn tele­phone mes­sages Satur­day.

Satur­day’s fire was pos­si­bly the dead­li­est in the Las Ve­gas area since 1980, when 87 peo­ple died and more than 700 were in­jured in a fire at the MGM Grand Ho­tel.

Fire of­fi­cials said 30 to 35 peo­ple were dis­placed and the South­ern Ne­vada Red Cross said it sent per­son­nel to pro­vide as­sis­tance. County records list the build­ing as hav­ing 41 units.

Be­cause of the soot through­out the build­ing, res­i­dents will not be able to go back into the build­ing, Szy­man­ski said.

Po­lice had taped off the build­ing, the front of which was black­ened by smoke.

Sykes said one apart­ment on the first floor “was lit­er­ally just fire and smoke com­ing out of the win­dows.”

He and his wife even­tu­ally got out of the build­ing by mak­ing their way to a neigh­bor’s apart­ment.

STEVE MAR­CUS/LAS VE­GAS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Fire­fight­ers work near a three-story apart­ment com­plex that caught fire Satur­day in Las Ve­gas. The fire was in first-floor unit of the Alpine Mo­tel Apart­ments and stoves used for heat may be the cause, fire of­fi­cials said. More than 30 peo­ple were dis­placed.

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