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Joan Whitely

Surprise inspection found violations

29 January 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Malfunctioning fire doors and exit doors were among fire safety violations that the Clark County Fire Department found at the Monte Carlo in a surprise November inspection triggered when one of the hotel's security officers contacted fire prevention officials.

The hotel corrected the deficiencies, or was in the process of doing so, by mid-December when the Fire Department returned for a follow-up visit, according to fire inspection records.

It's not clear whether the repairs helped with the safe removal of guests from the 32-story hotel on Friday morning, when a fire on the upper reaches of the tower's exterior forced all guests and workers out.

The head of Clark County's building department, Ron Lynn, said Monday that the lower 26 floors were habitable, but he won't allow the hotel to reopen until damaged parts of the facade are removed or secured. He expects that process to take a couple of days once it begins.

"Under the circumstances of what went on, with the fire isolated in a non-public area and put out so quickly, I can't tell you that someone's life was saved" because of the corrected violations, MGM Mirage executive Alan Feldman said Monday. "They certainly didn't hurt, and if anything, were helpful."

Stroud "Stan" Maldare, a security officer at the Monte Carlo for nine years, told the Review-Journal that he met with prevention specialists at the Fire Department on Nov. 6 because he believed the hotel's safety and security managers were lagging in their response to what he described as some long-standing problems.

The next day, a fire inspector visited the hotel, and Maldare was summoned to accompany the inspector and several hotel representatives as they toured sites demonstrating Maldare's concerns. By the Fire Department's return visit on Dec. 13, the identified problems were fixed, fire records indicate.

Records on file in the department's fire prevention bureau document numerous violations: obstructions to exit aisles; obstructions to exit doors; broken exit door hardware "throughout the property," and broken self-closing exit fire doors "throughout property."

In some locations, doors leading to employee areas that the public might need to exit through had been locked with card-readers requiring an employee badge.

The Dec. 13 report noted various types of completed repairs. Exposed electrical wires in an electrical room had been properly enclosed. Broken fire doors near linen locker rooms on floors 3 through 32 were fixed. An exit route from the back of a spa area had been cleared of obstacles.

Feldman, senior vice president of public affairs, assessed developments from the Nov. 7 inspection to the Dec. 13 inspection as, "Stan detailed 25 issues that he had expressed concern about. Eleven needed to be followed up. We took care of all of them."

He said it's not yet clear whether Maldare's superiors were already addressing the employee's concerns before the surprise inspection.

Feldman characterized the inspections as a process in which "everybody did their job. If Stan felt the need to go to the Fire Department, that was fine. The Fire Department heard someone express concerns and physically went out (to inspect). And, we did what they asked us to do."

Maldare said he worked more than 15 hours on Friday as a result of the fire. He declined to talk in detail about his November meeting with fire officials, or subsequent events, without permission from MGM Mirage. He said employees have to sign a paper in which they agree not to speak to the media about their employer.

Feldman declined to give Maldare permission for further contact with the media, but said the company would not penalize him for his actions.

"Stan is a very passionate, very intense employee, who has -- with OSHA or with the Fire Department or any number of government agencies in the past -- let his feelings be known if he didn't think things were being attended to carefully," Feldman said.

OSHA stands for Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

Maldare said that in the last five years or so he has triggered three inspections of the Monte Carlo by Nevada OSHA and two inspections by the Fire Department, all in relation to his concerns about fire safety.

Stephen Coffield, a spokesman for Nevada OSHA, said Friday the agency has five days to respond to the newspaper's request for the narrative reports corresponding to eight Monte Carlo inspections listed in the federal OSHA database.