LAS VEGAS (AP) — Authorities have started their investigation into one of the worst fires in Las Vegas’ history after six people were killed, 13 injured and nearly 50 others displaced from a three-story apartment building in the downtown area.
Some residents of the Alpine Motel Apartments told investigators there was no heat in the building and they were using their stoves to stay warm before the pre-dawn blaze broke out Saturday.
Responding firefighters reporting finding the burners turned on and hearing smoke alarms going off, but not fire alarms.
The State Fire Marshal's Office will investigate for code violations including any involving fire alarms, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said.
Nevada law requires landlords to provide heat, but it also leaves it up to residents to notify the landlord.
Las Vegas police and the Clark County coroner’s office also are involved in the investigation.
The fire reportedly started around a first-floor unit's stove, forcing some residents to jump from upper-floor windows to escape the heavy smoke.
The building, built in 1972 with 41 units, sits a few blocks from downtown Las Vegas’ touristy Fremont Street District.
Malinda Mier, the building’s co-owner, said she wasn’t aware of any issues with heating and the building was up to code with inspectors checking it about five or six months ago.
“We have code enforcement and the health department comes out and everything that needs to be fixed gets fixed in a timely manner,” Mier told Las Vegas TV station 13 Action News.
Mier said she was “saddened by the loss of life” and couldn’t believe the fire damage she saw.
“It’s beyond my scope of comprehension and it’s sad and I still don’t know exactly what happened,’’ she added.
Firefighters arriving at the scene began treating injured and using ladders to rescue numerous people jumping or hanging out of windows, Szymanski said.
“I don’t think there is anything that is more disturbing than to pull up on a three-story building and see multiple people hanging out a window with heavy black smoke coming out of that building,” he said.
Of the 13 people were injured, most suffered from smoke inhalation but some also had fractures, Szymanski said.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that a pregnant woman in her first trimester fell after her hands slipped on a rope of bed sheets while descending from her third-floor apartment, leaving her with multiple fractures. Her husband told the newspaper that medical personnel told him the fetus' heartbeat appeared strong.
Szymanski said three people were found dead in the building and three outside after the fire was extinguished. It wasn't immediately clear if anyone died after falling or jumping from windows.
Of the 13 people injured, five were hospitalized in critical condition Saturday including the unidentified pregnant woman. Szymanski said he didn’t have any immediate updates Sunday.
The fire was possibly the deadliest in the Las Vegas area since 1980, when 87 people died and more than 700 were injured in a fire at the MGM Grand Hotel.