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Brian Haynes

Monte Carlo contractor rejects fire probe findings

4 February 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The company blamed for last week's fire atop the Monte Carlo defended itself Friday, saying that it had the proper work permit and that its employees were following safety procedures when the hotel caught fire.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Union Erectors contradicted a Clark County Fire Department investigation that found company welders failed to take basic precautions to prevent hot molten metal, called slag, from sparking the Jan. 25 blaze along the rooftop facade of the 32-story Strip resort.

"After the investigations are concluded, we feel that the results will show that Union Erectors and our employees acted in a safe and responsible manner, as we do with all of our clients," the Las Vegas-based company said.

However, Fire Department spokesman Dan Kulin said the investigation into the cause of the fire was complete.

Fire investigators determined the welders did not take a variety of safety measures as they cut and installed a steel walkway behind the hotel's facade.

The safety measures should have included using "slag mats" to prevent the hot metal from igniting flammable materials and posting a worker on fire watch to look for sparks or falling slag that could trigger a fire.

Union Erectors also said it had the necessary permit to perform the torch cutting and welding required for the job.

"We have a hot work permit through the casino," company manager Anita Hershberger said Friday afternoon.

She would not elaborate or answer further questions about the incident.

Fire investigators, however, found no record of a hot work permit through the county, which is required under county code. Fire Department officials were reviewing the case and could cite the company with a misdemeanor for failing to pull the permit.

"Our records indicate the contractor did not have a hot work permit from the county," Kulin said. "If they have information to indicate otherwise, they should share it with the Fire Department immediately."

A casino industry source said both sides could be right.

County regulations require contractors to apply for hot work permits through the Fire Department, and Strip resorts require contractors to file a different version of hot work permits at the properties, the source said.

The permits go by the same name and look nearly identical, which adds to confusion over the hot work permitting process, the source said.

But whether the company had a permit or not, does not change the fact that its workers didn't follow safety procedures, the source said.

"It seems like Union Erectors is trying to throw dirt in the air and say, 'It's not us, it's somebody else,'" the source said.