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Transformer explosion behind Monte Carlo disrupts early morning I-15 traffic

Updated Sunday, May 15, 2011 | 12:52 p.m.

Electrical fire behind Monte Carlo

A transformer exploded and shot flames high into the dark sky early Sunday morning behind the Monte Carlo casino on the Las Vegas Strip , leading authorities to close Interstate 15 for about an hour.

No one was injured in the blaze and firefighters have not yet determined the cause.

About 12:25 a.m., the Clark County Fire Department responded to a report of an explosion of a transformer located on Frank Sinatra Drive across the street from CityCenter, according to Stacey Welling, public information officer for Clark County.

When firefighters arrived, flames were shooting 80 to 90 feet high and smoke was showing from the large transformer, Welling said.

"The force of the explosion blew debris to Interstate 15 and Frank Sinatra Drive and caused power outages in the area," Welling said.

North and southbound lanes of I-15 and the onramp at Tropicana were shut down as a precaution by the Nevada Highway Patrol, she said.

Crews, which including a joint response from Las Vegas Fire & Rescue's hazardous materials team and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, established a perimeter around the fire.

The fire, fueled by mineral oil within the transformer, was allowed to burn for about 30 minutes to extinguish itself to alleviate a large oil spill in the area, Welling said.

Responding crews put out residual fires quickly after of the the fire had burned itself out, she said.

The flames were finally knocked down about 1:35 a.m., at which time the lanes on I-15 were allowed to reopen, she said.

NV Energy officials said the transformer explosion caused power outages nearby along the Strip, but power was restored to the hotels and casinos at about 3 a.m.

NV Energy hasn’t determined a damage estimate for the transformer, pending the ongoing investigation into the explosion’s cause.

There were also reports that power at nearby Aria Resort & Casino and Vdara hotel at CityCenter also went out, apparently because of the transformer explosion.

Although the Monte Carlo was not damaged by the fire, the early morning blaze brought up memories of the 2008 fire at that casino. Fire Department and OSHA reports concluded that sparks from welding on the roof caused the Monte Carlo's Jan. 25, 2008, fire on the facade and upper floors of the hotel. A lawyer for the company involved in the work disputed those reports. The fire did an estimated $80 million damage.

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