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Gaming Guru

Mary Manning

Fire Forces Evacuation of Casino

4 August 2005

LAS VEGAS -- A three-alarm fire at the Aztec Inn, 2200 Las Vegas Blvd. South just north of Sahara Avenue forced the evacuation of the casino and caused an estimated $200,000 in damage but no injuries late Wednesday, fire officials said.

It was the third fire at the hotel in several weeks, but fire investigators don't believe the three fires are related, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said.

This latest fire was by far the worst of the three at the hotel, which is across the street from the Stratosphere. Firefighters were called to the hotel by its security chief at 11:38 p.m., Szymanski said.

"The security chief for the Aztec Inn told fire investigators that he was in the casino when someone ran in and told him the hotel was on fire. When he went outside and checked, he saw flames on the second floor of the hotel," Szymanski said.

Reinforcements were needed and before the fire was under control 45 minutes later, more than 100 firefighters from Las Vegas Fire & Rescue and Clark County Fire Department were at the scene, Szymanski said.

Smoke drifted south along the Strip and a gray cloud hung over the Sahara and Riviera hotels into the early morning hours.

Traffic between Sahara and St. Louis Avenue was diverted from Las Vegas Boulevard while firefighters and their vehicles lined both sides of the Strip. Firefighters changed air tanks and rested under palm trees growing in the median as they battled the fire.

About 4:20 a.m. today Szymanski sent out a press release stating that fire had mostly been in the attic area of the two-story wood-frame hotel, which had been vacant because it was undergoing renovations.

Fire investigators want to talk to more people today to try to determine whether work on the building may be related to the fire, Szymanski said.

In addition to the attic of the hotel, the fire and water used on it damaged two rooms on the second floor and a stairwell from the first floor to the second floor, according to the press release.

The previous fires at the hotel involved a mattress ablaze in one of the rooms, which was quickly extinguished, and an electrical fire in that was smoldering in the closet of a room on June 22.

Also, in January 2001, two people were treated at University Medical Center after a flash fire in one of the Aztec's rooms.

According to the records on the Clark County assessor Web site, the Aztec Inn is owned by Sahara Meadows Properties Inc. That corporation's officers are Las Vegans Dr. Donald J. Dombrowski, president, and Gary Vause, secretary and treasurer, according to records on the Nevada Secretary of State's Web site.

While firefighters were dousing the fire into early Thursday morning, Metro Police diverted pedestrians along the Strip east of the Aztec to Paradise Road. Many of the pedestrians stopped to watch the action while they sipped tall icy drinks.

Jeremy Judd, a Henderson resident who took the day off from selling scuba diving equipment to enjoy the Las Vegas Strip Wednesday night, was part of the crowd that watched firefighters battle the blaze.

"I was just hanging out and saw the flames. It was smoking pretty good," he said.

The flames were on the west side of the casino, away from the Strip, Judd said. His pickup truck was stuck in the firefighting zone behind the Aztec, he said.