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Casinos cut odds for fires

Christina Proctor

Luck was on the side of the casino Tuesday night when firefighters quickly doused the three-alarm fire at the Eldorado Hotel-Casino in downtown Reno.

While the odds are always in favor of the house, Tuesday night’s blaze served as a wake-up call for local casino managers against complacency in their own protective measures.

Ron McKenzie, general manager of Horizon Casino Resort, said the first thing his director of security did Wednesday morning was go over the resort’s own fire safety game plan with employees.

“We talked about how the situation would be handled if it occurred at the Horizon,” McKenzie said. “We’re using this incident as a reminder that it can happen at anytime and to anyone.”

Fortunately, the blaze at the Eldorado was contained within an hour and no one was injured.

Bruce Van Cleemput, assistant chief for the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District, said historically there have been few major fires at the Lake Tahoe casinos. Many of the casinos are protected by computerized fire detection systems that are directly linked to the dispatch center. Van Cleemput said early detection has help contain the few fires that have broke out in the resorts.

Lon Rusk, general manager of Lakeside Inn and Casino, said the Reno fire serves as a reality check.

“It makes us reaffirm what we’re already doing in the way of safety,” Rusk said. “We feel very strongly about our safety codes and drills.”

Rusk said his staff has evacuated the building as fast as 10 minutes during a fire drill.

Reports said the Reno fire is believed to be caused by an exterior lamp in the marquee. John Packer, spokesperson for Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, said that unlike Reno or Las Vegas the marquee signs at the lake tend to be less elaborate.

“We don’t have any signs that involve a ton of plastic or lights,” Packer said.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency also has several restrictions and codes on signs in the basin.


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