Pool fire at The Cosmopolitan fueled by fake palm trees
Jul. 28, 2015
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Fake palm trees and high winds fueled a poolside fire on a rooftop at The Cosmopolitan hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip over the weekend, fire officials said Monday.
The blaze on Saturday sent guests running and plumes of black smoke billowing from the scene.
One person was treated at the hotel for inhaling smoke. Another was transported to the hospital for the same reason.
Clark County Battalion Chief Leo Durkin said the trees were made from foam that has become a common building material on the Strip and elsewhere for facades and decorations.
It can take some effort to ignite, but once the foam catches fire, it burns fast and with a lot of heat, Durkin said.
"We are not surprised when we see these products and the way they react to fire," he said.
Authorities were still investigating the cause of the blaze on the 14th-floor rooftop.
If investigators determine the fire's behavior was greatly affected by the foam decorations, it could lead to discussions about the need for changes to fire code regulations, he said.
String lights were hung from the trees, but Durkin says it's unclear if the cause of the fire might have been electrical.
"Had we not had the wind, this might have been a much smaller problem," he said.
The Las Vegas area has prided itself on intense firefighting and stringent building codes since a 1980 fire at the original MGM Grand hotel killed 87 people.
In recent years, casino-hotel pools have become popular day destinations with private cabanas, DJ's and pricey drinks.
Clark County codes regulate the use of cabanas and temporary outdoor shelters, and ban open flames and electrical cooking devices on pool decks but decorations such as faux palm trees or patio furniture aren't inspected. The agency said it's not aware of any codes anywhere that regulate such decorations.
If the palm trees had been inside the casino, they would have been inspected by county regulators, said Ron Lynn who oversees Clark County's Fire Prevention Bureau.
Lynn said county inspectors have told him the casino has started moving other palm trees away from its pool decks.
"We have not found any code violations yet," he said.
Lynn couldn't recall another poolside fire. The only other blaze in recent history involving a foam material happened in 2008 when the Monte Carlo's foam facade eaves near the roof caught fire and caused some $100 million in damage and lost business when a welder dripped stray bits of molten metal on the material. No one was seriously injured.
Durkin said the proximity of a fire station contributed to the good outcome.
The fire department responded with about 100 personnel including several chiefs, 13 engines, four trucks and other vehicles dousing the noon-time fire in about 30 minutes.
The Cosmopolitan says it reopened its Bamboo Pool area Sunday.
A hotel spokeswoman didn't respond to questions about the palm trees. A statement from the hotel referred all questions about the ongoing investigation to the Clark County Fire Department.