Building Control
Fire Safety
Your friend in indoor comfort & safety systems
Home Company Services Case Studies References Agencies Daikin-Vrv Handbook Fires / Hotels AskHvacMan Links Save Energy Contact Us
Fires &
Fire ABCs
Some Fire Cases
Fire Books

Big Hotel Fires

Fire Safety
Hotel Fire Case
How to Survive
Big Hotel Fires
Hotel Fire Cases
Fire Hazard Classification
Hotel Sprinkler Systems

Hotel Fire News

Special Fires
Hotel Fires
Ship Fires
Industrial Fires
Hospital Fires
Warehouse Fires

Restaurant/Nightclub Discotheque-Fires

High Rise Fires
Airport Fires
Fires ABC
Big Building Fires
Book About Fires
Fire Stats
Fire Board

Books About Fires

Fire Exit Systems
Software About Fires
Fire Sprinkler Software
Fire Egreess Software
Fire Modelling Software
What is Fire Sprinkler
Success Stories
Sprinkler Manufacturers
Fire Pump Manufacturers
Standar for Sprinkler Systems
Sprinklered Hotels

Books About Sprinkler

Public Entry
Recration Areas
 Retail Areas
 Function Spaces
Foods & Beverage
Mechanic Systems
Fire Protection
Site Development


The second largest life-loss hotel fire in United States history devastated the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino, Las

Vegas, Nevada, On November 21, 1980. Eighty-five lives were lost as smoke filled the 26-story high rise.

The blaze occurred in Clark County, Nevada; first-in units were form the Clark County Fire Department, with

immediate assistance being rendered by five other local fire departments through established mutual aid

agreements. A brief outline of the Clark County Fire Department structure is presented in Section II, Clark

County Fire Department.

An extensive, cooperative investigation effort ensued. Upon request, the National Fire Protection Association

and the United States Fire Administration worked closely with the Clark County Fire Department to determine

the cause of this fire; invaluable assistance was offered by the National Bureau of Standards and the Bureau of

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (a Division of the United States Treasury Department), as well as the staff of the

Clark County District Attorney’s Office and individuals of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

Agency acknowledgements are listed in Section III, Assisting and Support Agencies.

Section IV is a structural description of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino, which gives the reader a general, overall

picture of the size and shape of the hotel. More detailed information can be found in Section VI, Diagrams and

Drawings. Numerous floor plans and detailed sketches are presented in that section to provide the reader with a

better understanding of the items and areas discussed in Section V, Fire Scene Examination.

The Fire Scene Examination includes initial response information, a preliminary investigation report, information

relative to area and point of origin, fire cause, flame and smoke spread.

A synopsis of Emergency Medical Services comprises Section VIII. Included in this section is a brief outline of

rescue units and personnel that responded to the fire scene, a list of entities providing helicopter services, and a

detailed report submitted by the Clark County Medical Examiner.

Section IX consists of statements obtained from eye witnesses. The final section, Section X, contains a

preliminary report written by the National Fire Protection Association, briefly describing the hotel and summarizing

the conditions surrounding and the factors contributing to the fire.

The National Fire Protection Association, the United States Fire Administration and the National Bureau of

Standards are cooperatively documenting and analyzing this tragic incident. An in-depth report is expected to be

available by June, 1981. The pressing time factor mandates release of this report prior to receipt of the pending

documentation. The patience of the reader is requested; information made available by these agencies will be

released at the earliest possible date.

The following description of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino is intended to give the reader an idea of the size and

shape of the hotel; it is not meant to be an exact scale representation.

The MGM Grand Hotel/Casino was located at 3645 Las Vegas Boulevard South, City of Las Vegas, County of Clark,

Nevada (southeast corner of the intersection of East Flamingo Road and Las Veags Boulevard South). Classified as

Type 1 construction, it is a 26-story high rise hotel and casino complex. Construction of the hotel began in 1972, and

the complex opened for business in December, 1973.

The high rise section was laid out in a “T” formation, the top of which ran lengthwise from east to west on the north

end of the building, facing Flamingo Road. The leg of the “T” ran south from the center of the north end of the

building, forming the “T” shape of the high rise. The high rise had an east wing, a west wing and a south wing.

The main high rise elevators were located in the center area of the north end of the high rise, between the east and west

wings. The service elevators were located at the north end of the south wing.

There were six stairwells: three interior stairwells to the high rise; and three smokeproof towers, which were located

at the outer end of each of the wings. Because the doors of the interior stairwells were locked, persons entering the

stairwell enclosures could not gain access to other floors. Only the topmost floor and bottommost floor had doors

which could be opened from the inside.

The casino and showroom were located on the west side of the south wing of the hotel, and encompassed an open area

larger than a football field. An underground parking area, as well as the employees’ kitchen and room service preparation

area, was located in the basement below the casino level. A large attic area with the “eye to the sky” catwalk was

located above the casino ceiling. Executive and accounting offices were also situated above the casino area in the west

end of this portion of the building. Five restaurants were incorporated into the east end of the casino level almost

directly below the south wing of the high rise.

There were basically two floor levels located on the east side of the south wing of this hotel. The lower level was a shop

and arcade area with a movie theater and health club. The main east-west hallway in the shop and arcade area was

located below the east wing of the high rise. An escalator and a stairway leading up to the casino area were located at

the west end of this hallway. The east end of this hallway merged with a north-south hallway that exited to the north

side of the building on Flamingo Road; the south end exited to the pool area.

The casino level was utilized as a convention hall and meeting room, and encompassed a number of offices. A large

Jai Alai fronton was located at the far east end of the hotel. The main front entrance to this complex was located at the

far west end of the casino. Another large entry area was located on the casino level, north side, approximate center,

with access gained from Flamingo Road.

The approximate footage of the hotel/casino was 2,000,OOO square feet. The gross dimensions of the casino and arcade

levels were approximately 380 feet by 1,200 feet. The casino itself was approximately 175 feet by 480 feet. Each

wing of the hotel was approximately 350 feet long by 75 feet wide. There were approximately 2,076 guest rooms. (An

additional 780 guest rooms were under construction on the west side of the building at the time of the fire.)

There were approximately 5,000 persons, including both guest and staff, occupying the hotel at the time of the fire.

The building was partially sprinklered. Those areas protected by sprinklers included portions of the 26th floor, the

showroom, arcade, Barrymore Room (restaurant), and convention areas.

A manual alarm system, with bells and public address system, existed in the MGM. It was a local system only, and was

designed to be sounded by security personnel located in the security office, casino level; five minutes after signalling

the security station, a general alarm would sound (no alarm was sounded during the fire).

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system supplied cool or warm air through common duct works.

All of the return air to the HVAC system flowed through a large return air plenum and the common attic above the

casino, restaurant, showroom, and arcade areas. This was one large, undivided or uncompartmentalized area.


In the intersection of the “T”, seismic joints had been constructed from the air plenum continuously to the 26th floor,

thereby creating vertical shafts which were approximately 12 inches wide. The bottom seismic joints had been connected

directly into the air plenum above the ceiling, thus incorporating the shafts as a part of the plenum, with no

separation to retard air flow through the shafts.


It should be noted that five pieces of printed information were observed in the hotel relating to emergency procedures

in case of fire and/or bomb threat.

The information sheet entitled, “Only the Outside Stairways Will Be Used to Evacuate the Hotel”, shows an overhead

view of the high rise, depicting locations of the elevators and stairwells. The wording on this sheet states that none of

the elevators or inside stairwells were to be used for evacuation of the hotel; only outside stairs were designated on the

map to be used by employees.

This information was found by fire investigators on a bulletin board located next to the head of housekeeping door.

To the best of the investigators’ knowledge, these documents were not posted for public view, nor were they part of an

overall public evacuation program.

The following information in this Section ZV, pages IV-2, IV-3, ZV-4, IV-5, ZV-6, ZV-8, and ZV-9, are merely copies of

the actual information received in this investigation. Original documents are on file with the Clark County Fire

January 15, 1980


Page 2


Safety glasses must be worn in specified areas in accordance with the Hotel’s safety policy for eye protection.

Wear safety gloves and/or proper shoes for any work requiring this added protection.

The wearing of moccasins, tennis shoes, open-toed shoes, any soft shoes, or shoes with high heels is not


Do not wear loose clothing or flowing ties while operating equipment which could catch them.

Employees operating any machinery must have hair longer than collar-length properly covered or tied.

Where safety equipment is prescribed for your area, you are required to wear or use safety equipment as



1. Keep all material out of aisles; do not throw any article on the floor where another person may slip or fall

over it.

2. Keep the Hotel clean as your own home. You spend more awake hours in the hotel than in your house.


1. Take every precaution to prevent fire. Throw all cigarette butts, matches, oily rags, and any other rubbish in

properly provided receptacles.

2. In case of fire, the first consideration is the safety of all guests and employees; then attention can be given to

fighting the fire, and the protection of Hotel property.







SUBJECT: Evacuation in case of bomb threat or fire; Housekeeping administrative offices.

MGM Security will advise Housekeeping to evacuate. The Executive Housekeeper or person in charge will order all

administrative personnel to evacuate. In the absence of the above supervisors, employees will take the order directly

from MGM Security. The supervisors who gives the order to evacuate will ensure that all personnel:

a. Place loose papers and records in the file cabinets.

b. Close all drawers and cabinets.

c. Turn off all electrical appliances, (fans, coffee makers, typewriters, raidos, etc.), or unplug if possible.

The schedule/status clerks will take the Daily Schedule Sheet, and the inspector beeper list.

The payroll clerk will carry the current payroll book with her.

Personnel will assemble in the rear of the Hotel between the tennis courts and Personnel where the supervisor will take

roll, to insure that all personnel have evacuated safely.

S/Ben F. Witsell

Executive Housekeeper

Housekeeping Personnel In The Guest Room Areas

MGM Security will advise all personnel working on the floors to evacuate.

Inspectresses and Head Houseman will secure Linen

upon notification of evacuation.

Lockers and Houseman’s Office immediately

Maids and Houseman will place their equipment in the nearest open guest room in order to leave the

hallways, and other areas free of obstacles. They then will proceed to the nearest exit,

(STAIRWAY), (elevators will NOT be in operation) and proceed to the bottom, and assemble in the

rear of the hotel opposite Taylor Construction were the Inspectresses will take roll to insure that all

personnel have evacuated.

All employees will wait in this area until they receive further orders from Security personnel or the


At approximately 0955 hours on November 22, 1980, Captain Wm. Mike Patterson, Calrk County Fire Department

Fire Investigation Division, received written permission from Bernard Segelin, Executive Vice President of the MGM

Grand Hotel/Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, to enter said premises for the purpose of determining the cause, origin, and

circumstances of this fire, which occurred on November 21, 1980 at approximately 0717 hours.

Mr. Segelin also signed a Fire Scene Release Form, relieving the Fire Department of responsibility for the security of

the building upon completion of their scene examination. This allowed the owners to hire private investigators to

determine the cause, origin and circumstances of the fire.


The following scenario is a chronological report of the MGM Grand Hotel fire which occurred on November 21, 1980,

from the initial time of alarm through the preliminary conclusion of the Clark County Fire Department (C.C.F.D.)

Fire Investigation Team.

For the purposes of this report, the term O/R or O/Rs designates the officer or officers reporting, terminology which

is in fact applied to Clark County Fire Department Fire Investigators in all written communications.


On Friday, November 21, 1980, at 0717 hours, the Clark County Fire Department responded to a reported fire in a

building at the MGM Grand Hotel, 3645 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, County of Clark, Nevada.

The initial report from the MGM Grand stated the fire was in the Deli, a restaurant located at the east end of the

casino floor level. The first in engine company and rescue (paramedic) unit were from Station 11, located at 88 East

Flamingo Road, which is across the street from the north entrance of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino. Engine 11, with

a total crew of four men, arrived at 0719 hours, parked the 1,500 GPM fire engine at the north entrance, Flamingo

Road side, and implemented the High Rise Preplan.

Upon entering the casino, Captain Rex Smith and his crew observed black smoke, stratifying in the east portion of the

casino, emitting from the Deli. The crew walked inside toward the casino pit, a distance of approximately 36 ft. to

40 ft., and observed heavy black smoke lying motionless in the atmosphere. They looked toward the Deli, stopped,

and observed a fireball rolling out of the area. It spread back into the casino, and the crew began to evacuate. The

smoke had now dropped down, on an angle, within 8 ft. of the floor. Firefighter Bert Sweeney later stated, “When we

turned to walk back to the north entrance, it only took us approximately 12 seconds, the smoke was now down within

approximately 4 ft. of the floor. We walked through the doors to the engine, a total time lapse of 25 seconds. I looked

west, or towards the main entrance, and observed a fireball exiting the canopy and front entrance.”

NOTE: The distance involved in this observation is approximately 336 ft. (blueprint measurement). The total length

of the casino, not including the foyer in the Deli, is approximately 448 ft. (see Diagram B, Section VI).


1. On November 21, 1980, at approximately 0705 hours, a supervisor of the marble and tile setting crew, Mr. Tim

Connor (an employee of the MGM for seven years), was reporting for his normal workday. Mr. Connor

entered the west set of double doors, the main entrance of the Deli. He knew the Deli was closed and he could walk

through the kitchen on the Deli’s east side to ascertain if any tiles were broken. As he entered the Deli, he heard what

he thought to be a crackling sound in the southeast of the center column, which is a main structural support of the

building. Mr. Connor smelled no unusual odors. He did, however, observe the reflection of a flickering light at side

stand #2, located on the south wall, center of the Deli. Mr. Connor proceeded to that area and, not entering side stand

#2 entirely but remaining in the entrance, he observed a wall of flame on the east wall, with flame traveling from the

counter top to the ceiling. Mr. Connor immediately contacted MGM Security by telephone, apprised them of the

situation, then proceeded back through the Deli, intending to secure a hose line near the south exit, when he was

knocked backward into a booth by pressure and smoke. He exited through the double main entrance doors, still pursuing

the house line. The house line was placed in position by an unknown security guard, and Mr. Connor attempted

to reenter the Deli via the south service entrance with a hand extinguisher when he was knocked down again by the

smoke and pressure buildup. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Mr. Connor left the area.

2. While Mr. Connor was engaged in his ordeal, unknown to him, a female employee, Ms. Velma Turner, observed

a fire near the Keno board located above side stand #‘s entrance in the Deli. She immediately advised the

chef, Mr. Kent Oborn, of the situation; she then left the area. Mr. Oborn approached the east entrance of the Deli and

observed fire in and around the Keno board area. He immediately notified the operator that a fire was in progress in

the Deli; he went back into the kitchen, secured a 1 ‘/z inch occupant fire hose, and returned to the Deli. Upon observing

the area he believed to be the area of origin, that area being the Keno board, he heard someone state not to put

water on the electrical fire. He then discarded the hose line and began evacuation of the kitchen personnel.

NOTE: The reader should be reminded that neither Mr. Connor nor Mr. Oborn had observed the other, nor did

either know of the other’s actions.


At approximately 1145 hours on November 21, 1980, an investigation into the cause, origin and circumstances of this

fire began. Because of the rapid rate of smoke and flame spread, investigation could not begin immediately. Destruction

due to fire decomposition, and the removal of those persons suffering injury or death, delayed the actual investigation

several hours. Personnel assigned to the Fire Investigation Division of the Clark County Fire Department

were all placed in fire suppression and/or rescue operations. As the heat began to subside, Captain Wm. Mike Patterson

entered the suspected area of origin for his initial observations. It was through his initial observations that the

following procedures were implemented.

First, security w,as established around the accessible areas that had ingress and egress pathways to the Deli;

Second, the Task Force concept was implemented;

Third, assignments were given to individual Investigators for purposes of correlation, preservation and investigation.

Their findings would ultimately be compiled into a single report.

First observations were directed to the total fire decomposition of the southeast and northeast portion of the Deli.

This was due to partial structure collapse, fire decomposition of virtually all combustible materials, fire and char patterns,

and heat distortion of metal framing and metal furnishings.

It was noted that the wall which separates the north portion of the Deli and south portion of the coffee shop was void

of any coverings. It was obvious this had been a wall, but the only identifiable remains were metal studs. Fire decomposition

was severe in this area, but not as total as the south wall of the Deli. By observing the interior of the coffee

shop from the Deli, it initially appeared that unusual fire and char patterns were visible in the southeast corner of the

coffee shop (see Diagram C, Section VI). Attention was given to this area.

Unlike the Deli, where virtually every piece of furniture had been consumed by the progress of the fire, the coffee shop

sustained heavy fire decomposition primarily to the counter and, in general, the southeast portion or corner. A large

worktable, constructed of stainless steel, ran the length of the south wall, turned and ran north on the east wall, forming

an “L” shape. This table was, prior to the fire, affixed to the south and east walls. Under this table, the remaining

portions of a wooden secondary shelf were observed; this shelf had sustained heavy to severe fire decomposition. At

the east end of this shelf a fire pattern was observed at the second shelf level, where the shelf terminated into a cubboard

or storage area. Concentrated efforts revealed no electrical source or mechanical source of heat in this area; it

was later determined that a fire load consisting of napkins and other common combustibles normally found in a

restaurant were stored in this area. The wall of the cupboard was constructed of wood or equivalent cellulose material

believed to be plywood. This explained why the fire patterns appeared as they did.

A second fire pattern became obvious to the O/Rs. This fire pattern was located on the east wall, floor level of that

area north of the Orleans Room counter, next to the passageway opening to the kitchen. Upon close observation and

consultation, it was determined there had been a linen disposal bag containing cloth materials, which had been

suspended from a metal wire cable fastened to the wall. Upon attaining that required amount of heat necessary to sustain

combustion, the bag and its contents fell, and the ensuing fire consumed these articles. This lowered the fire and

char patterns to floor level, which initially appeared to indicate an unknown area of origin.

It is now clear that neither of the areas described above were areas of origin, but were simply extended fire patterns

from the path of the ensuing fire propagation, which extended from the Deli to the Orleans Coffee Shop. It was later

determined, based upon witness interviews and the normal business routine of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino, that

the Orleans Coffee Shop had indeed been open for business, and that there had been approximately 50 guests sitting

around tables and at the coffee counter. The fire did not propagate from the Orleans Room; however, it did propagate

from the Deli into the Orleans Room through its south wall and ceiling area. Concentrated investigation efforts were

then returned to the area of the Deli (see Diagram D, Section VI).


The room of origin was that room identified as the Deli (see Diagram A, Section VI). The Deli was one of five

restaurants located on the casino level, and was situated in the center of the three restaurants on the east end of the

casino. The design of the restaurant was basically rectangular, with the main entrance located on the west end of the

restaurant. The measurements were approximately 44 ft. wide and 82 ft. long. The ceiling varied in height: the center

portion was approximately 11 ft. high; the booth areas (soffits) were approximately 9 ft. high. The Deli construction

was protected non-combustible and unprotected non-combustible, with 2 in. x 4 in. metal frame wall studs, and

5/8 in. gypsum wallboard, which had been covered with assorted wall coverings and ornamental trim consisting of

plastics, wood, cloth, tile, veneers and wall-to-wall carpet. This restaurant would be classified as a “luxurious atmosphere”


The Deli was not sprinklered; heat and smoke detectors were not present. At the incipient stage of this fire, the Deli

was prepared for regular business hours, which would have commenced at 0800 hours on November 21, 1980. This

was not a 24-hour restaurant, as was the Orleans Coffee Shop directly to the north.

NOTE: The Orleans Coffee Shop was not sprinklered; however, the Barrymore Room (the restaurant immediately

to the south of the Deli) was sprinklered.

The normal hours of business for the Deli were from 0800 to 0100 hours, a total of 17 hours of each 24 hours. Typically,

the restaurant was cleaned and prepared for its next day of business upon closing time. To the knowledge of the

O/Rs, no person(s) were in this room between the hours of 0100 and 0630, except Mr. John Dodge (see statement,

Section IX).


Based on initial reports from witnesses and observations by the O/Rs, followed by interviews with firefighters, it was

determined that the area of origin was that portion of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino known as the Deli.

The O/Rs entered the Deli through the west main entrance. Available information was sketchy; witnesses who could

offer firsthand accounts had not yet been located. No witnesses could be found who could convey the vital information

required to begin this investigation accurately. Rumors were heard everywhere. To complicate matters further,

firefighting activities were, in fact, still in operation at the west end of the casino, and rescue efforts continued.

Smoke, the threat of building collapse, and related dangers were constantly present.

The first information Captain Patterson was able to discern indicated the Deli had been vacant and closed for

business; initial reports also alleged that the adjoining restaurant to the north (the Orleans Coffee Shop), as well as the

adjoining restaurant to the south (the Barrymore Room), had been closed for business.

The kitchen was located east of and adjacent to the Deli restaurant. For service purposes, an entryway was located on

the east wall of the Deli, opening into the kitchen. A wall constructed of metal studs with 5/8 in. gypsum wallboard

and covered with assorted wall coverings and ornamental wood/plastic trim, separated both the north wall (the coffee

shop side) and south wall (the Barrymore Room) of the Deli. There were, in fact, three separate restaurants, each having

its own decor representing a different era, and each with its own passageways for purposes of egress and ingress. It

was further observed that the Barrymore Room was sprinklered; the coffee shop and deli were not.

The north wall, which separated the Deli from the south wall of the Orleans Room, sustained heavy to severe fire

decomposition. Examination of the wall studs, fire and char patterns, and direction of fire travel revealed that neither

side of this wall was the area of origin. Mechanical or electrical sources of heat were not responsible for the fire consuming

this wall. It was concluded that the fire decomposition was a result of the fire’s path of progress, which

preheated and consumed those common combustible materials located in and around this wall.

Concentrated efforts were then directed to the east wall of the Deli. Although the east wall of the Deli sustained severe

fire decomposition, it was obvious the greatest concentration of heat was located at ceiling height, from the southeast

corner of the Deli to the center of the south wall, where side stand #2 was located. The fire and char patterns observed

on the east wall were consistent with that of flame spread downward, not upward. The typical fire “V” or cone patterns

were not there. Booths, designed in semi-circular style, were the primary source of combustible material along

the east wall, and those fire patterns observed were not consistent with those patterns common to a fire originating

from chair (booth) height. The east wall and the north wall were elminated as areas of origin.

The south wall was then established as the next area of concentration, particularly that cubicle commonly known as

The side stand, an appendage that protruded approximately 6 ft. to 8 ft. into the restaurant area, was rectangular in

design with a single passageway on the north wall, west corner. The passageway did not have a door affixed to it. The

side stand was enclosed, with its center obstructed from public view by a large built-in pastry display case. The side

stand was simply a waitress station, supplemental to the primary kitchen facilities which were located in the extreme

northeast corner of the Deli. It was constructed of metal studs covered with wall covering and assorted wallboards.

(For details on this area, see Diagram D, Seciton VI, and related information compiled by Investigators Tom Klem of

the United States Fire Administration, and John Caloggero of the National Fire Protection Association.)

Back to MGM Fire Case

Air Grilles
Air Diffusers
Air Quailty
All Air Systems
All Water Systems
Building .Managament Systems ..BMS
Cooling Towers
Cooling Load Calculation
Energy Saving
Duct ,Smacna
Dampers ,Air
Dust Collection
Fire Dampers
Glass Selection
Heat Exchangers,water
Heat Recovery
Heat Tracing Systems
Hepa Filters
Hvac Applications
Humidifiers / Dehumidifiers
Insulation , Duct
Insulation , Pipe
Insulation , Sound
Nano Tech.,In Building
Occupancy Sensors
Pneumatic Conveying
Pool Ventilation
Process Piping
Radiant Heating
Refrigerant Systems
Solar Collectors
Steam Generation
Tables & Charts Gnr.
VAV Sytems
VRV Systems