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The Las Vegas I Remember MGM Fire

This a 6-part series of stories from those who remember the 1980 MGM Grand fire in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas and Nevada history as told by those who lived it. This series was broadcast in 2000 and produced by KNPR's Tim Anderson with support from the Nevada Humanities Committee.

Click on the title to listen or download MP3 audio.

MGM Fire part 1
Lark Williams begins KNPR's six-part series on the tragic 1980 fire at the MGM Grand which killed 86 people. Lark was running keno on the floor of the MGM early that morning when the smell of smoke began to drift through the casino. She and others thought nothing was "really wrong" until it was almost too late.

MGM Fire part 2
November 21, 1980, an electrical fire in the MGM's deli smolders for hours before exploding into a ball of fire that quickly engulfed the casino and sent black clouds of smoke billowing through the high-rise hotel. Ed Finley was one of the firefighters at the scene who talks about needless deaths. Wayne Burns was a primary fire investigator who also tells what he found. And Robert Taylor remembers finding an older couple who calmly sat out the fire in their room and were eventually rescued.

MGM Fire part 3
In November 1980, Laura Fielden Spina was a 16-year-old student at Clark High School. Youthful curiosity drew her to the MGM fire where she quickly began work as a volunteer helping to rescue fire victims. She talks about what she saw and did, and how the Las Vegas community came together to help the victims. Dennis Mack, helicopter rescue pilot, describes how they rescued people from the balconies.

MGM Fire part 4
As huge clouds of billowing, black smoke engulfed the MGM Grand Hotel, hundreds of terrified hotel guests and employees made their way to the roof of the hotel. Helicopter pilot Ray Pas recounts how he and other helicopter pilots rescued more than 300 people from the roof...and how his most meaningful "thank you" came many years later.

MGM Fire part 5
We know the results of the MGM fire - 86 dead, hundreds injured, at a cost of a billion dollars. In this episode we hear from principal fire investigator Capt. Wayne Burns who explains how the fire started, and why it spread and grew into an inferno before it was ever detected...and who was to blame.

MGM Fire part 6
Voices of the day - We listen to excerpts from TV news coverage of the day, November 21, 1980. Those who fought the fire, survived the smoke and flames, helped and rescued the injured, and blessed the victims.

A complete version of the official investigation and report into the 1980 fire at the MGM Hotel can be found at the Clark County Fire Department web site.