MGM Fire, November 21, 1980
A fire that killed 85 people and injured nearly 700 occurred 30 years ago. The fire which is one of the deadliest in the United States at a hotel. This anniversary reminds each inspector about the need for studying the past and understanding how code changes have been implemented.
The MGM Grand Hotel/Casino was located at 3645 Las Vegas Boulevard South, City of Las Vegas (Clark County) which was occupied at the time of the fire has changed the shape of the Las Vegas strip.
Nevada (southeast corner of the intersection of East Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard South). Classified as Type 1 construction, it is a 26-story high rise hotel and casino complex (approximately 2,000,000 square feet). At the time of the fire there were approximately 5,000 people in the building. The fire which started in the deli and spread to the casino resulted in 84 deaths and an additional 679 were injured.
There was no automatic fire sprinkler system in the casino portion of the building, covered with materials without wall and ceiling finishes, and the hotel section of the building contained many unprotected vertical shafts. The building was filled with nonprotected openings that allowed smoke to enter and fill exit stairwells, and doors locked people out of the building once they exited into these stairwells. The fire is believed to have started from faultily electrical wiring. The smoke and other products of combustion spread throughout the building.
NFPA recent report sums up the findings:
Investigators found no evidence that the hotel had executed an emergency plan or sounded an evacuation alarm signal. Nor was there any evidence of manual fire alarm pull stations in the natural escape path in the casino. The number and capacity of the exits from the casino were deficient, and the travel distances from certain areas of the casino to the exits were too long. Finally, there was no automatic means of recalling the elevators to the main floor during the fire to prevent people from boarding them. Ten of the MGM Grand victims were found in the hotel’s elevators.
As a result of this fire, Life Safety Code® requirements for stairwell re-entry onto building floors if the exit stair enclosure becomes untenable were changed to include three options. Stairwell doors must now remain unlocked on the inside of the stairwell so that people can get from the stairwell back to guest room floor. Or they may be locked, but they must automatically unlock when the building’s fire alarm system activates. Or hotels may use selected re-entry, in which there may be no more than four intervening floors between unlocked doors and signs must be provided to direct occupants to the floors with unlocked doors.
However, the most important part of revisiting the MGM fire, says Demers, is that it re-emphasizes how important it is to pay attention to, and enforce, fire protection basics. These include installing sprinklers and smoke detectors, enclosing exits and exit discharges, and checking the flame spread potential of interior furnishings.