Hilton Las Vegas – The Fire 1981

Blow-torches of flame shot through an elevator shaft and up one side of the 30-story Las Vegas Hilton Tuesday night, as four separate fires “of suspicious origin” left eight pople dead and 242 injured. A pillar of flames shot up the side of the 2,783 room hotel, the nation’s largest, as hundreds of guests fled into the streets, lowered themselves to the ground on ropes of bedsheets or scrambled to the roof where helicopters plucked them to safety.

Six people were questioned about possible looting, but they were later released. Security guards were posted at all entrances and in the casino area today, and guests returning for their belongings were told the hotel was under “lock-up” and off-limits to all but investigators and key hotel and casino employees. Manager Art Donovan said he had “no idea” when the hotel would reopen.
The first floor casino was not damaged. Hotel officials said that unlike the MGM Grand, which had sprinklers on only a few floors and no smoke alarms, the stone facade Hilton had sprinklers and smoke detectors on every floor.

In a horrifying of the MGM hotel fire on Nov. 21, flames broke out on the eighth floor on the 30-floor luxury hotel gambling spa about 8 p.m. and went through the east wing three-wing hotel. While some guests . While some guest clambered down hastily made sheet ladders, other hung out of hotel room windows and screamed for help.

About 25 minutes after the first fire was found, a second blaze was discovered in a different wing. Two more were found within 20 more minutes.

At least five persons were found dead in the hotel – three men on the eighth floor and a man and a woman in a bathroom on the 10th floor. The eighth floor victims were found lying face down in an open elevator, the others were outside closed elevator doors. A sixth person was said to have fallen or jumped to his death, but the report was unconfirmed.

The fire on the eighth floor was under control shortly after 9 p.m. The other blazes — in a second floor laundry room and on the third and ninth floors — were put out later. The eighth and ninth floor hallways were gutted, and smoke damage extended to the 18th floor. The left elevator shaft in the east wing was blackened top to bottom, and rooms closest to the elevators received the most damage.

“Some guests were trapped in their rooms,” a hotel spokesman said. Fireman worked their way through the upper stories, leading guest to safety.

Helicopters evacuated guests from the hotel, delivering them to nearby Las Vegas Convention Center.

Both the Hilton and the MGM grand were built by Taylor Construction Co. of Las Vegas, and there where used the same construction method for the two buildings, a method called “fast tracking” because building begins before all plans are completed. The MGM fire was a “low-level (building) fire. In this case, we had a high-rise fire. But for many panicked guests there was a grim sense of flashback. “We thought of the MGM fire and .. it scared us half to death,”

Authorities on the scene confirmed the fire was deliberately set. Early Wednesday, police were questioning a suspect with a soot-blackened face at the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center.
At first it appeared that room service busboy, 24, was a hero for warning guests about the flames, but as fire investigators began digging into his claims, his story began to crumble.

While taking a polygraph, he broke down and confessed he accidentally set the fire after he engaged in sex with a man. He said they smoked marijuana and the joint set a curtain on fire.

But investigators said the blaze had four points of origin and that he started them.

A jury found him guilty of eight murders and arson. He was sentenced to eight life sentences

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