Hotel’s Fake Palm Trees Cause Enormous Blaze to Spread

An enormous, quick-spreading blaze erupted on the pool deck of a Las Vegas hotel at the end of July, sending flames and thick plumes of black smoke over the sprawling Las Vegas Strip.

Clark County Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan told NBC News that the blaze began on a pool deck of the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino. There were no serious injuries, but two people were treated for smoke inhalation, one of whom was hospitalized. The fire scorched trees and cabanas at the hotel’s west side Bamboo Pool, but luckily did little damage to the building’s interior.

Hotel fires are more common than one might think, and are also scarier, too. According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 3,700 structure fires per year at hotel or motel properties between 2006 and 2010. These hotel and motel fires led to 12 civilian deaths, 143 civilian injuries, and $127 million in direct property damage each year on average.

Almost half (45%) of these fires involved cooking equipment, 10% were caused by smoking materials, 9% were caused by heating equipment, and clothes dryers or washers were involved in 9% of these fires. Worst of all, there weren’t any smoke alarms present in about 14% of non-confined hotel and motel fires. The cause of this particular hotel fire is still under investigation, according to a statement from the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino.

Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell told CNN that in his 26 years as a firefighter, he’d seen his share of casino fires, but never one quite like this one.

“What made it move so fast were all the fake palm trees,” Cassell said. The plastic foam used to construct the imitation Arecaceae “is like solid gasoline to us,” he explained, which is why the fire “took off like a rocket.”

The fire was extinguished about 45 minutes after it was first reported, and the hotel said later that same day that it had returned to full operation, with the exception of the areas affected by the fire.


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