1980 MGM Grand Hotel Fire-Thirty Years Ago
Thirty years ago on the morning of November 21, 1980, 85 people died and more than 700 were injured as a result of a fire at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was the second largest life-loss hotel fire in United States history. It was determined during the investigation that the fire originated in the wall soffit of the side stand in the Deli, one of five restaurants located on the casino level. The investigators concluded that several factors contributed to the cause of the fire but the primary source of ignition was an electrical ground fault.
Once the fire ignited, it quickly traveled to the ceiling and the giant air-circulation system above the casino. In the casino, flames fed on flammable furnishings, including wall coverings, PVC piping, glue, fixtures, and even the mirrors on the walls, which were made of plastic.
The fire burned undetected for hours until it flashed over just after 7 a.m. and began spreading at a rate of 19 feet (5.8 meters) per second through the casino. As fire companies and firefighters were arriving, according to published reports, an estimated one-million-cubic-foot wall of flames was rushing through the casino, melting slot machines and sending a cyanide-laced cloud of killer smoke pouring upward.
The investigation determined that the rapid fire spread was due to a series of installation and building design flaws. A wire at the point of fire origin that had been improperly grounded could’ve been discovered had the area been inspected. A compressor wasn’t properly installed. A piece of copper wasn’t insulated correctly. A fire alarm never sounded. A stairwell that was a crucial escape route filled with smoke. The laundry chutes failed to seal and defects existed in the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. All of these factors contributed to the spread of smoke.
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