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Lessons from the Past: Mgm Grand Fire

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The historic MGM Grand fire took place in Paradise Nevada on November 21st 1980. This building was 26 stories. The entire casino was fully engulfed in flames in just 6 minutes! The fire was started from an electrical problem that was discovered by a tile company inspecting the building. This fire cause 85 innocent lives to be taken due to not having fire code and restrictions on the building. The morning of the fire it is said that a total of 5,000 people were in the building including staff, guests, and others. It is a miracle that only 50 lives were lost and 700 people were injured. Some sections of the casino had sprinkler systems installed but the majority of the building did not. There was also no smoke detectors or any other kind of fire related signaling systems in the building. After this historic fires just like many other people in the fire service learned many things and have made changes in fire codes and combustible materials to not only prevent another tragedy like this but to at least help control a fire if it were to happen again.

While the tile crew was inspecting the restaurant inside the casino one of the workers thought he saw flickering lights. The flickering lights that he believed he saw turned out to be flames behind one of the walls. Once the flames were up the restaurant was burning at a rate of 5 to 10 feet per second. It turns out that one of the employees of the restaurant saw smoke coming out of the vents just around 7:00 am that morning. After security was aware about the fire the fire department was contacted and they sent a metro police helicopter. The pilot of that metro helicopter then contacted all of the other available agencies in Las Vegas for backup.

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After this fire major changes came about all over the country. Insurance policies, fire codes, occupancy loads, and many other rules all became a huge factor when building and inspecting buildings. After the MGM Grand fire it opened up people’s eyes on how easily a fire can start when the right materials are not used in the construction of a building. During the fire excessive amounts of smoke spread throughout the whole building through the HVAC system. This increased the amount of tragedies because people were breathing in unhealthy amounts of smoke. This fire made people question if Nevada was a safe place to go due to the fact that majority of the large buildings there were all constructed in a similar way. The current fire Chief in Nevada at the time stated, “Things have changed for the better, we have a solid broad-based level of protection in place”.

This fire will continue to play a role in our fire safety even today. Fire safety will never settle and will keep improving their codes and requiring more inspections and have more of a say in building construction. We will continue to be safer as civilians of the United States of America.


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