Friday, April 26, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Four days before its grand opening, the Stratosphere Tower had a close call when kitchen smoke filled the glass-enclosed restaurant, about 900 feet above the ground.
At least 200 workers were in the tower at 1:30 p.m. Thursday when smoke filled the fifth floor. No one else was allowed in and firefighters and security guards ushered those in the tower down the staircase to "a designated safe area," an open area on the first floor, said Stratosphere spokesman Tom Bruny.
Officials said Thursday's scare ended up being a chance for an unplanned fire drill in the pod, which sits at 900 feet on the 1,149-foot tower.
It was the first time the kitchen on the tower's fifth floor was used, Bruny said. The restaurant is a floor above the kitchen. A ventilator in the air-flow duct system wasn't working properly, and the area filled with smoke, Bruny said.
"Instead of going up and out the chimney, the smoke stayed in because of a problem with a damper," Bruny said.
Four tanks atop the tower are filled with 32,000 gallons of water for firefighters, but the water wasn't necessary Thursday. If that were to run out, high-powered pumps would be able to pump water from engines on the ground to the pod, firefighters said.
Fire sprinklers inside the kitchen went off when the smoke set off the tower's alarm system, Bruny said.
"The positive thing is we discovered the construction problem with the ventilator, and discovered that the sprinklers do work properly," Bruny said. "It turned out to be an unplanned test, but a good test."
A worker suffered chest pains and was treated by paramedics on the ground, Bruny said.
"We had one employee who overreacted to the stress and the excitement and said she had chest pains," Bruny said. The woman, whose name was not released, was not taken to a hospital.
Landscaper Andres Chacon with Cedco Landscape Inc. continued working with others on the ground during the incident as crews worked on finishing touches of the project. The Stratosphere Tower hotel-casino's grand opening is Monday night.
"We can run if we have to," Chacon said. "We're on the ground, not in the tower."
Las Vegas Boulevard from Main Street to Baltimore Avenue was closed to through traffic while firefighters looked for the source of the smoke.
Twenty firefighters and six fire trucks and engines responded to the alarm, said Las Vegas Fire Department spokesman Evert Wilson.
We took it as a fire," Wilson said. "It took awhile to figure out it wasn't a fire. It ended up being a pretty good training exercise."
Some "confusion and communication problems" between firefighters and security employees at the Stratosphere "were expected with a new facility," Wilson said, noting that firefighters would be back next week to iron out emergency procedures.
Clark County Fire Department Capt. Tom Ciciliano, who responded with an engine for backup, said that "we controlled the elevators to make sure nobody was going up and everybody was out."
Ciciliano's 7-year-old daughter Jordan Ciciliano, who was along with her father for Take Your Daughter To Work" day, watched the excitement while sitting inside the truck's cab.
Because there was no fire and his daughter wasn't allowed out of the truck for safety reasons, "She was really pretty bored," Ciciliano said.