Newspaper Articles from different sources
Tower fire rained debris
Elizabeth Holland and Steve Sebelius
Monday, Aug. 30, 1993 | 3:51 p.m.
It wasn't the typical Las Vegas light show.
But a fire that began early Sunday morning in the unfinished Stratosphere Tower next to Vegas World drew hundreds of onlookers anyway. Flames from the blaze licked the sky as debris and ash fell to Las Vegas Boulevard below.
A huge crane being used in the construction of the town was left inoperative by the blaze, listing to one side. Orange ashes fell like heavy rain from the top of the tower as occasional fireballs of had-been lumber barreled to the ground like miniature comets.
A helicopter circled as clouds of thick smoke churned from the top of the tower, and the blaze could be seen for miles. Many watched the spectacle from behind yellow police tape on Las Vegas Boulevard, side streets and even Interstate 15.
Many others had little choice: Hundreds were evacuated from the adjacent 1,049-room Vegas World Hotel when the flames and debris became too much of a threat.
"It was raining fire," said Richard Johnson, an employee of Alarmco who works across the street from Vegas World. "The back side was on fire, and within a matter of 15-20 minutes the whole thing was engulfed."
Johnson said the fire shook loose debris that burned through netting strung around the tower's waist and just above the ground-level construction yard.
"It was shooting part of the scaffolding onto the casino and onto the ground," he said. "Thank God the winds weren't blowing too hard."
A team of fire investigators, crane specialists and workers from Perini Building Co. went into the 510-foot tower Sunday afternoon to examine the crane and they found it inoperative but stable.
"The crane's in pretty bad shape," said Evert Wilson, adding that plans to use the machine to clear debris would have to be scrapped. "I don't think there's any danger of it falling."
The same crew will be going up into the tower again today to clear debris such as large tool boxes, an acetylene cylinder and an air compressor, and to secure the crane with cables. After that, the fire investigation can begin.
"Safety first. Once we get a safe place to work, we'll start the investigation," Wilson said.
The cause of the fire and the amount of damage that it caused have not been determined.
Guests at Vegas World found the next-door blaze a harrowing experience.
Patricia Fessell of Tracy, Calif., said she called Vegas World telephone operators about midnight from her 20th-floor room when she and her husband heard sirens and saw firemen below from their hotel window.
"They said, 'Don't worry, the tower next door is one fire," Fessell said.
Minutes later, the couple saw burning embers flying past their window facing Las Vegas Boulevard and placed a second call to the hotel's desk.
"They said, 'Don't worry' and then, all of a sudden, the lights went out and we looked out the window, and it looked like it was right on the roof," Fessell said.
The Fessells and another couple, armed with a flashlight, bolted down the hotel hallway, pounding on doorways as they went to roust the others out of their rooms. They exited the floor through the stairwell but were caught in a jam of fleeing guests near the third floor.
Patricia Fessell said employees bounced her and others from exit to exit, no one quite knowing where to send them.
Rebecca Piorko of Philadelphia, a guest on the hotel's fifth floor, said she called an operator at 12:50 a.m. to request a wake-up call.
"They didn't say anything to us," said Piorko, who, at that time, didn't know of the fire. Moments later, her mother, town floors down, informed her of the fire. Piorko called the operator and again was told not to worry.
"We made out own brilliant deductions, packed our stuff up and took it with us," Piorko said.
As she and her family were leaving their rooms, smoke was creeping onto their floor and the hotel was dark, Piorko said.
"There was no light," she said. "They (hotel employees) should have been more on the ball.
As happened in the November 1980 blaze a the MGM Grand Hotel, several Vegas World visitors were none too pleased at the idea of having to leave table games and slot machines when told of the hotel evacuation, employees said.
Eighty-four people were killed in the MGM fire, caused by an electrical problem, but there were no major injuries reported in the Stratosphere blaze.
Vegas World, packed just before the evacuation, was touched with panic when news of the fire spread, accompanied by a couple of loud booms, one employee said.
One woman tore through the casino, screaming, "Bob Stupak did this for the insurance money!" two employees said. "She was hysterical. She was screaming," one said.
Dealers raced to close down table games so they could be locked under plexiglass, an employee said.
Dale Fisher, a dealer, lauded employees for the evacuation.
"As far as I'm concerned , there was absolutely no danger in the casino whatsoever. They evacuated it very, very promptly."
In 1980, Fisher was leaving the MGM Grand Hotel when he saw a stream of fire engines and other emergency vehicles racing toward the casino. He turned around and realize he has narrowly escaped the raging blaze that tore through the hotel.
"That place was mass hysteria," he recalled.
Two Vegas World employees who asked not to be named agreed that Sunday's evacuation went well but said hotel employees there have no training to system for evacuating guests in emergencies.
Outside the casino, where clumps of soggy soot lay on streets, sidewalks and cars, a man sitting on a curb with his family held a sleeping child. Several women walked around in floral pajamas, and many displaced guests clutched backpacks and suitcases they had grabbed from their rooms.
About 3:30 a.m., someone used a bullhorm to tell guests that accommodations were being worked on.
Comedian Marty Allen, who performs at Vegas World, drove to the hotel as soon as he learned of the fire. He and his wife watched the blaze with the crowd and entertained the gathering as best they could.
"When something like this happens," Allen said, "humor can play an important part."
"They kept saying, 'It's a hot act, you're a hot act,'" he joked.
When guests were allowed back inside the hotel about 4 a.m., they streamed through the entrances and quickly resumed activity at the slots and other games as an overpowering air freshener was pumped into the casino to stifle the smoke.
Chris Graves, a police reporter with the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul, found the fire a chance of pace. For once, she didn't have to cover the fire.
"This was the prettiest fire I've ever seen," said Graves, who, despite the fact she was on vacation, busied herself taking notes. "The whole thing was just on fire. It was just like a volcano. It lit up the sky."
Tuesday, April 30, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Singer Phyllis McGuire may have said it best: It was a Stupakular night.
It was also a fitting tribute to her longtime companion Bob Stupak, the oft-maligned but never-daunted entrepreneur whose dream became a reality Monday night with the opening of the Stratosphere Tower and resort.
The sparkling $550 million casino complex drew more than 8,000 invited guests to its premiere party, while thousands more lined the streets outside awaiting their chance for a glimpse of Las Vegas' newest mega-resort.
That came at midnight, when doors opened to the public, admitting the first of what seems certain to be a steady stream of visitors eager to sample spectacular views of the city from observation areas near the top of the 1,149-foot tower.
Early guests faced two-hour lines for the elevators that would whisk them far above the Strip, and most said it was well worth the wait.
"It's exceeded even my expectations," said Las Vegas Mayor Jan Laverty Jones, one of the earliest and staunchest of Stupak's supporters. "Standing on the outside deck on a perfect night like this and looking out over the lights of this city absolutely took my breath away. I think every visitor who comes to Las Vegas will want to see this sight."
"I think it's fantastic," said Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren. "This tower will be the symbol of Las Vegas for all time. What Howard Hughes didn't do, Bob Stupak has finished off."
Stupak himself seemed uncharacteristically subdued, as if bemused by all the attention. After all, he said he was going to build it.
"I feel fine," he shrugged, a faint smile on his face. "What can I say?"
While Stupak took the hoopla in stride, other Stratosphere executives were more euphoric.
"I'm on top of the world," said Lyle Berman, Stupak's old poker pal and new business partner. Berman's Grand Casinos Inc. bought a 43 percent stake in the resort when a fire during construction threatened to halt the project halfway to completion. His business acumen and Stupak's manic energy combined to make Stratosphere a distinct departure from the dingy old Vegas World complex it replaced.
"I feel like a proud new father," said Stratosphere President Dave Wirshing, who will guide the resort's 3,100 employees. "These are some of the best people I've ever worked with."
"Almost without exception, people said the casino complex was far more beautiful than they expected and the tower was far more spectacular than they expected," said Tom Bruny, Stratosphere communications director. "Judging from their reaction, I think we have a winner."
Stratosphere's 97,000-square-foot casino sparkled with World's Fair-themed decor, while magicians, jugglers and other performers entertained visitors lined up for various attractions.
They included the Let It Ride Roller Coaster and the Big Shot, two thrill rides outside the pod near the top of the tower. The Big Shot drew the most attention, propelling riders 160 up a mast atop the pod in less than two seconds, then dropping them bungee style back to the starting point.
A six-minute, $50,000 fireworks show from the 900-plus-foot level began at 10:30 p.m. and could be seen from all over the Las Vegas Valley.
After weeks of customer-service training and a Sunday pep rally designed to build enthusiasm, Stratosphere workers appeared happy to get on with their jobs.
"It's been great so far," pai gow dealer Jane Strong said. "I've worked at other places over the past 10 years and this seemed like an exciting opportunity to be part of something new to Las Vegas."
"I came out here from New York because I wanted to work at the tower and meet people from all over the world," said cocktail waitress Michelle Grcic. "This is very exciting to me."
Las Vegas and Los Angeles television stations broadcast live from the resort, as did cable network CNBC and several radio stations. Print and broadcast journalists from around the world covered the opening.
Tower draws rave reviews
Suspects sought after man is shot in Stratosphere parking lot
Metro Police are investigating a shooting that happened Monday night in a Stratosphere parking lot, officials said.
The shooting occurred at 9:35 p.m. in the Stratosphere’s north parking lot, near the intersection of Philadelphia Avenue and Commerce Street. Gunfire struck a male victim multiple times, Metro Lt. David Valenta said.
The victim was transported to University Medical Center with injuries not considered life-threatening, Valenta said.
Police have not determined a motive for the shooting, but they are searching for multiple suspects seen riding in a large, red truck, Valenta said.
The shooting did not disrupt casino operations. The intersection of Philadelphia Avenue and Commerce Street is closed while police investigate.