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December 16, 2017

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Golden Nugget fire was arson, investigators say


Christopher DeVargas

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue crews respond to a guest-room fire on the 22nd floor of the Golden Nugget downtown Thursday, March 15, 2012.

Updated Thursday, March 15, 2012 | 3:19 p.m.

Golden Nugget Fire

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue crews respond to a guest-room fire on the 22nd floor of the Golden Nugget downtown Thursday, March 15, 2012. Launch slideshow »
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Las Vegas firefighters roll equipment toward the Golden Nugget on Thursday morning. An unidentified man was in critical condition after a fire in a room on the 22nd floor of the Rush Tower.

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Las Vegas firefighters prepare to leave the scene of a fire Thursday morning at the Golden Nugget. A fire in the room on the 22nd floor of the Rush Tower sent an unidentified man to the hospital in critical condition.

A fire Thursday morning at Golden Nugget was intentionally set, fire investigators have determined.

But it’s still unclear how a hotel guest — who was transported to the hospital in critical condition — wound up inside a locked room on a floor closed to the public, fire officials said.

Fire investigators have not determined whether the guest set the fire.

The unidentified man, whom firefighters found moaning in the room where the fire originated, was taken to University Medical Center for smoke inhalation, officials said. Fifty people were evacuated from floors near the two-alarm blaze.

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue crews responded at 8:26 a.m. to the fire, which broke out in a guest room on the 22nd floor of Rush Tower at the downtown Las Vegas resort. At 9:01 a.m., firefighters reported the fire had been extinguished.

Fire spokesman Tim Szymanski said that when firefighters arrived, sprinklers already had been activated and the floor was filled with smoke and water. The fire was contained to the room where it originated, Szymanski said. That's also where firefighters discovered the victim.

Floors 22, 23 and 24 of the resort are undergoing remodeling and were unoccupied by guests, Szymanski said. They don’t have furniture or other fixtures as a result, he said.

It’s not known why the man was in the room or how he got there, Szymanski said. Firefighters had to use a pass key to get into the locked room, which contained some bedding material, he said. The room was being used for storage.

Firefighters found bedding material just inside the doorway that appeared to have been on fire, Szymanski said. One sprinkler had doused the fire, which investigators said caused less than $1,000 damage.

The evacuations occurred on floors 21 through 25. Those evacuated included guests, officials said. No other injuries were reported.

Szymanski credited the building’s technology with preventing the fire from spreading.

“The bottom line is they have modern fire-safety systems in the building,” he said. “They work.”

About 75 firefighters responded to the Golden Nugget, standard procedure for incidents at any resort property, Szymanski said.

“They over-responded, which is a good thing,” said Steve Thompson, a Golden Nugget guest visiting from San Juan Island, Wash. “There were a lot of (firefighters) here. They were pretty quick.”

Pat Martin joined dozens of other Golden Nugget guests who stepped outside to watch the firefighters. She called the incident a scary reality, especially after a fire alarm sounded early Thursday morning in Carson Tower, where she’s staying.

That incident proved to be a false alarm, she said.

“We’ve been here many, many times, and this has never happened before,” said Martin, of Vero Beach, Fla.

Guests on the evacuated floors were allowed to return about an hour later, Szymanski said.

The Golden Nugget, one of Las Vegas' most venerable gaming operations, opened in 1946 and now features 1,900 guest rooms and suites.

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