Six People Die in Las Vegas Apartment Building Fire

LAS VEGAS (AP) -
Soot darkens the backdoor of a three-story apartment complex, Dec. 21, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

A fire in a three-story apartment building in downtown Las Vegas where residents were apparently using their stoves for heat killed six people and forced some residents to jump from upper-floor windows to escape the heavy smoke before dawn Saturday, authorities said.

Investigators reported that the fire started around a first-floor unit’s stove and that residents had told them that there was no heat in the building.

Residents reported awakening to pounding on doors around 4 a.m.

Firefighters arriving at the scene began treating injured and using ladders to rescue numerous people already jumping or hanging from windows, fire department spokesman Tim Szymanski said. “The first thing that you think of is: We’ve got to rescue those people. A fall of 16 feet or higher can be fatal.”

Thirteen people were injured, mostly from smoke inhalation, but victims also had fractures, including one with broken legs and possibly a broken back, Szymanski said. It wasn’t immediately known if any of the deaths were from people who jumped from windows. No firefighters were injured.

The cause of the fire appeared to be accidental, and the fire was largely contained to the first-floor unit where it started in the stove area, Szymanski said.

Displaced residents told investigators that some had been using their apartment’s stoves for warmth because the building lacked heat, he said. Temperatures overnight have been dipping into the high 30s, according to the National Weather Service. Meteorologist Chris Outler says the low was 40 degrees early Sunday.

Szymanski said firefighters reported 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, he said.

The city’s code enforcement office did not immediately return telephone messages Saturday.

Saturday’s 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.

Fire officials said 30 to 35 people were displaced and the Southern Nevada Red Cross said it sent personnel to provide assistance. County records list the building as having 41 units.

Because of the soot throughout the building, residents will not be able to go back into the building, Szymanski said.

Police had taped off the building, the front of which was blackened by smoke.