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MGM GRAND FIRE: THE DEADLIEST DAY
 
Two decades ago, the idea of a high-rise hotel fire killing dozens of people in Las Vegas seemed impossible.

Building designs and codes were too advanced. Las Vegas was too modern a city.

But on the morning of Nov. 21, 1980, the impossible happened at the MGM Grand.

Wiring behind a wall in the resort's deli simmered, then burned undetected for hours. The result was a flash fire that spread at a
rate of 19 feet per second through the casino. The smoke from this superfire whisked its way through the resort's air-circulation
system and trapped victims in hallways, rooms and stairwells.

About 5,000 people were inside the resort when the fire started shortly after 7 a.m. Eighty four of those would die at the scene
or in Las Vegas Valley hospitals. Within a year, three more victims would succumb to fire-related injuries.

They were largely tourists and MGM employees.

An investigation found the fire seized on the hotel's greed in constructing the resort and on a series of installation and building
design flaws.

Fire marshals had insisted sprinklers be installed in the casino during the building's construction in 1972. The hotel refused to
pay for the $192,000 system, and a Clark County building official sided with the resort. Authorities later said the sprinkler
system could have prevented the disaster at the hotel, which is now Bally's.

Where the fire started, a wire that was not properly grounded could have been discovered had the area been inspected. A
compressor was not properly installed. A piece of copper was not insulated correctly. A fire alarm never sounded. A
supposedly smoke-free stairwell that was a crucial escape route filled with smoke. The laundry chutes failed to seal, and
defects existed in the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems -- all contributing to the spread of smoke.

The fallout was $223 million in legal settlements. There was a public -- yet not criminal -- dressing down of those responsible
for enforcing building codes, the resort and those who built it.

The lesson was learned, and Las Vegas is now the undisputed leader of the world when it comes to fire safety.

Tuesday marks the 20th anniversary of the deadliest day in Clark County history. Here are some of the memories.

Back to MGM Fire Case

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