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I stayed at MGM (now Ballys) the weekend before the fire. Checked out 3 days before it happened! Hearing the reports and reading the stories as it happened was certainly chilling for me.DaveOKC
Hmmm.. Since we call Vegas "Mecca", does that mean the religous Pilgrims call Mecca "Vegas'?
DaveOKC wrote:I stayed at MGM (now Ballys) the weekend before the fire. Checked out 3 days before it happened! Hearing the reports and reading the stories as it happened was certainly chilling for me.
This is a subject that is very close to me, and I still have vivid memories of it. As many of you know, I was a dealer at the MGM back then, and was scheduled to go to work at noon that day. I received a phone call from a friend in Los Angeles at around 8:00 that morning telling me to turn on my tv because my hotel was on fire. I was stunned at what I saw, much of it in the videos that Blonde posted. I actually drove down to see if I could help, but was turned away because most of the volunteer helpers were just getting in the way. The Barbary Coast across the street had shut down operations was operating as a triage location. It was a truly surreal experience.
I know the story very well because I wrote about it in the Las Vegas history site.
The 1980's got off to a very bad start in Las Vegas when on the 21st of November a fire broke out at the MGM Grand, killing 85 guests and hotel employees, and injuring over 700, including 14 firefighters.
MGM Grand on fire.
At the time it was the second largest life-loss hotel fire in United States history.
The fire started on the casino level in the deli, due to an electrical ground fault.
The fire was discovered at 7.05am by an employee who immediately notified MGM security.
Other employees noticed the spreading fire and tried to extinguish the growing flames.
Within six minutes of the time of discovery, the total casino area was involved in fire.
The Clark County Fire Department received the call reporting the fire at 7.17am, they arrived two minutes later at 7.19am.
Upon entering the casino, the crew observed black smoke emitting from the deli.
They were only 40 feet into the hotel when a huge fireball burst out of the deli and rolled into the casino, hustling the crew out of the building.
They made it back to the engine as the flames sprang out the front of the entrance.
Smoke billowing from the lower floors.
Smoke engulfing the whole building.
People on their balconies.
Ladders could only reach the ninth floor.
Guests departing the hotel.
Guest helped out.
Helicopters checking the rooftops.
Winched from the rooftop.
Photo taken from helicopter.
Remains of the casino.
Car outside gutted.
Fighting the flames.
Construction workers who were working near-by help out.
Two Clark County firemen tired and reflective.
Of the 85 deaths, 65 occurred on the top floors, despite the fire starting on the casino level.
76 died from Smoke and Carbon Dioxide. 4 died from Smoke alone. 3 died from Burns and Smoke. 1 died from Burns alone. 1 died from Jumping.
544 Firefighters were used to fight the fire.
Even before the MGM Grand opened seven years ago there had been fire insurance problems there.
A Las Vegas fire official had said. "The MGM Grand is one of the worlds greatest fire traps, equal to a wood structure"
At the time of the fire there were approximately 5,000 people inside the property.
But why did a fire that was contained to the second floor level where the casino and restaurants were, kill so many people on the upper floors?
Simulation of the MGM fire.
Lets start with the fire sprinklers.
The fire sprinklers did their job by stopping the fire spreading to the upper floors, but there were No sprinklers in the casino or restaurants, because rules meant that areas occupied 24 hours a day/night, were exempt from needing to have them by law.
The argument was that if a fire did start in a such a place, the fact that it was occupied would mean someone would see the fire and deal with it, before it got out of control.
That sounds amazing to me, but the fact that the deli had actually stopped 24 hour opening, and was in fact closed and unoccupied at the time is unbelievable.
If there had been sprinklers in the restaurant, this tragedy could have been averted.
Another amazing fact is that despite there being an alarm system in the hotel, it was a manually activated system and despite there being switches on the other floors, there were none in either the casino or restaurants.
So the alarm never got raised, and some people in the hotel never even realized there was a fire taking place.
But that still does not explain why so many people died on the upper floors.
Well again there is more than one reason for this.
The hotel wings were separated by tall seismic joints that were designed to let the building flex if ever there was an earthquake.
These shafts extended from the casino level right up to the top of the building.
So smoke and hot toxic fumes from the fire on the casino level boiled up these shafts, and came out through openings on each floor.
Now in theory this smoke and fumes should have been dealt with by the air conditioner system which had safety doors called "Dampers" that would snap shut and limit the spread of the deadly fumes and smoke when heat or fire was sensed.
But because the hotel had been getting such high air temperatures, these dampers were closing and shutting down the entire system quite regularly.
So to cure the problem maintenance personnel took away some of the screws and mechanically fastened the dampers Open, so that they would not work.
Meaning we now had a wide open air conditioner shaft.
Another problem was that the doors on the stairwells were designed to lock when someone passed through them, so once on the stairs you could not open the door from the inside.
This was the same on every floor except the ground floor and the roof.
More than half the deaths occurred on the stairwells.
But 25 people had died in their rooms, with no obvious traces of smoke stains in the room.
Some of the bodies lay on the floor, while some were seated with no obvious stress signs.
This baffled the fire investigators until they examined the air grills above the doors.
Grills above door.
The thick smoke that had risen to the above floors had been filtered out when entering these grills by the air filters, but that was not enough to filter out the toxic monoxide and other gases, that would kill the guests.
The fact that Carbon Monoxide is invisible, odorless and tasteless, means thankfully that a lot of those that died had no idea what was happening.
Guests overcome by fumes.
The MGM Grand re-opened on Wednesday the 29th of July, 1981.
The hotel/casino was repaired and refurbished in eight months at a cost of $50m, including a new $5 million fire alarm system, making it one of the safest resorts in the world.
A new hotel tower with an additional 732 rooms was also added.
There are 1,250 smoke detectors, tied into a central computer.
There are 8,000 audio evacuation speakers throughout the property, as well as water flows, dampers and sprinklers, with 30,000 sprinkler heads.
And pressurization fans were added to the stairwells that wont allow any smoke or fumes through, because they will be ventilated out through the roof.
Bill Casiere shows off the new fans.
Assuming nobody turns them off, I say sarcastically.
There were 1,327 lawsuits against 118 companies.
The lawsuits were resolved relatively swiftly.
Money from all the companies went into a $223 million settlement fund that was distributed to the victims and their families within three years of the fire.
MGM's $105 million was the largest.
The second biggest sum was $14.4 million paid by Simpson Timber Company for providing below grade ceiling tiles and flammable adhesive.
Millions also were paid out by the architects, contractors, subcontractors, and those who provided the materials that enhanced the smoke damage.
With a settlement, no negligence was admitted.
My first trip to Vegas was 1991 so I never saw this version of MGM. I keep looking at the old pictures and trying figure out what still remains as Bally's now. I wish I could see pictures side by side.
B - the current North Tower (I think of it as the East Tower) was the entire structure at that time. Plans were underway to build the new tower which was constructed along with the reconstruction of the older building. The area in front, where the people mover is now, was a guest parking lot then.
Bob! That is fascinating!
No, I never knew you were a dealer there.Ah, how soon we forget. http://blonde4ever.yuku.c...8526/Hello-From-Oklahoma
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