Early morning on Saturday, December 21, 2019 a fire at the Alpine Motel Apartments in Las Vegas killed six residents. The tragedy also left dozens more injured and up to 75 people homeless.
What may be the worst fatal fire in Las Vegas history started in a first floor unit of the apartment building on 213 North 9th Street, Las Vegas, Nevada, 89101. The blaze spread quickly throughout the three-story, wood frame building.
While fire officials termed the start of the fire “accidental,” there may be criminal negligence involved.
The apartments, built in 1972, did not have heating. Las Vegas Fire & Rescue reported that some residents used their stoves for warmth. This may have been the cause of the fire.
The building also lacked a sprinkler system. The fire alarm in the building did not work when tenants tried to activate it. Most units did not have working smoke detectors. Tenants who were awake in the pre-dawn hours ran through the building, pounding on their neighbor’s doors while shouting, “Fire!”
Even more horrifying, the panicked victims trying to evacuate found a first-floor exit door bolted shut.
Las Vegas Fire Department arrived to find tenants hanging out of windows, screaming for help. Some of the injured victims had jumped from second- or third-story windows, while others had smoke inhalation injuries.
The first fire unit quickly called for a second unit, so they could assist those trapped and injured. The second unit extinguished the fire within minutes, but the thick black smoke hampered ongoing rescue efforts.
The names and ages of those killed in the fire are: Francis Lombardo Jr., 72; Henry Lawrence Pinc, 70; Donald Keith Bennett, 63; Cynthia Mikell, 61; Tracy Ann Cihal, 57; and Kerry Baclaan, 46.
Henry Lawrence Pinc and Donald Keith Bennett died of smoke inhalation while trying to help others escape after finding the exit door blocked.
Cynthia Mikell was a stroke patient who used a walker. Her front door was a mere five steps from the blocked exit. Firefighters found her dead close to the door. Tracy Ann Cihal’s body was also found nearby.
Cihal was one of several residents who had complained to the city about Alpine Motel, including reports about code violations including the lack of fire safety equipment, smoke detectors, alarms and extinguishers. Cihal had recently contacted a local legal aid center, telling them the apartments were inhabitable.
In addition to the tragic fatalities, one of the critical patients is a pregnant woman.
Criminal Investigation into Alpine Motel Apartments Fire
Clark County Nevada District Attorney Steve Wolfson announced on December 24 that the Metropolitan Police Department’s homicide unit a criminal investigation was launching a criminal investigation into the Alpine Motel Apartments fire.
Alpine Motel Apartments are owned by Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC.