The MGM Grand fire took place in November 1980. The fire burnt the then MG Grand Hotel and Casino costing the lives of 85 people (Mirkhah par. 4). It was considered the worst tragedy Nevada had ever experienced and was classified as the third biggest fire in the United States has ever experienced.
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The hotel, which was a twenty three storey building consisting of 2000 rooms had around 5000 people at the time of the fire (Mrikhah par. 4). The fire, which started at around 7: 00pm, is believed to have spread from a neighboring hotel called the Delis.
The fire extended to the lobby, casino and blew out through the main entrance due to the speed at which it was spreading and also due to the fact that the walls were coated with a wallpaper that caught the fire fast and that produced toxic fumes while burning. It is believed that most deaths must have been caused by inhalation of these toxic fumes.
What Caused the Fire?
According to investigation results, the MGM Grand fire was caused by an electric fault, which resulted from an electric system that was used to supply power to a refrigeration system (Mirkhah par. 7). There was some friction on some wires in the electric system causing some sparks and eventually the fire. This was detected later by an employee, but it was too late to correct it.
Injuries, Deaths and Damage to Property Reported
While the majority of guests were rescued, a few succumbed to the fire tragedy. Most of the deaths were caused by smoke inhalation. The toxic fumes spread quickly through the ventilation duct network and hence ended up poisoning the hotel’s air circulation system (Mirkhah par. 5).
Many of those who died from these toxic fumes were in their sleep, but there were a few who were caught in the elevators and corridors where the ventilation was generally poor. Most of the deaths were reported on the upper floors. This is because the smoke got in the elevators and air conditioning system, which made its spreading faster. However, other people succumbed to burns, especially those who were in the areas that the fire broke out first.
One person also died from injuries attributed to jumping from the top floor to the ground as he tried to escape the fire and the smoke. Approximately 85 people died while 650 guests and employees as well as fourteen fire fighters were injured (Mirkhah par. 5). The fire also destroyed property mostly on the second floor.
The casino and restaurant areas experienced most destruction losing millions worth of property to the fire. However, the money counting areas were not affected by the fire because they had adequate fire prevention techniques in place. The worst hit areas (casino and restaurant) had no fire protection system in place. The lack of fire sprinkler system in these places was attributed to the fact that this system was not supposed to be installed in places where people occupied 24/7.
After the fire started, many people took precautionary measures to save their lives. These included putting wet towels under the door to prevent toxic fumes from getting into the rooms. Rescue response came from several departments including the Clark county fire department and Las Vegas Fire and Rescue.
The rescue operations were swift explaining why there were few deaths reported, despite the high number of guests at the time of the fire. Approximately one thousand people were rescued through the roof using helicopters provided by several helicopter companies to aid in the rescue operations (Mirkhah par. 4).
After the fire incident, the hotel was renovated and eventually sold out. The hotel is currently known as Bellay’s Las Vegas. Fire sprinklers were installed in all places including the casino and restaurant areas. The same fire precautionary mechanisms were also installed in similar business places as disaster preparedness strategy.
This fire outbreak also served as a wakeup call to fire rescue teams who became extremely cautious. The fire rescue departments bought more rescue vehicles and hired more personnel. The disaster response time was also improved to ensure swift response to future disasters.
The government also implemented policies on fire precautionary strategies. These included abolition of policies that barred the installation of fire sprinklers on areas that usually have people for 24 hours.
The MGM Grand Hotel fire case presented in this report presented lessons not only to big businesses, but also to the government agencies and policy makers alike. While initially it was unacceptable to install fire sprinklers in places occupied by people 24/7, the MGM Grand Hotel fire tragedy revealed that these places are the most susceptible to fires hence the need to install fire sprinklers.
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The tragedy also presented lessons to the fire rescue departments to prepare for big disasters in the future. It is no wonder after this disaster that these departments bought more equipment and hired more personnel.
Mirkhah, Azarang. Lessons from the Past: Learning Fire Prevention Basics from the MGM Grand Fire. IAFC on Scene, 2010. Web. <https://www.iafc.org/home>.