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Guests Flee Hotel as Vegas Tower Burns

August 30, 1993| From Times Wire Services

LAS VEGAS — Flames engulfed a 500-foot, under-construction observation tower early Sunday, forcing evacuation of hundreds of gamblers from the adjacent 22-story Vegas World Hotel Casino, authorities said.

There were no injuries, but a block-wide area was evacuated as the fire went to a third alarm just before 2 a.m. Flames leaping into the early morning sky could be seen for miles, and Las Vegas Boulevard became gridlocked before officials shut it down to motorists.

Hundreds of guests fled the 1,049-room Vegas World casino and hotel at the northern edge of the Las Vegas Strip but were allowed to return a few hours later.

Guest Gilbert Scheeringa of Tucson, Ariz., said he heard two big explosions and looked out his window "to see flames falling past my window."

Hotel fire alarms were activated, and Scheeringa said he and his wife, Dorothy, walked down 18 flights of stairs.

There was no panic, Scheeringa said, "but we couldn't hardly walk when we got to the bottom."

The Stratosphere Tower was more than half-completed and is scheduled to be 1,012-feet high. Its promoter, Vegas World owner Bob Stupak, describes it as the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States.

Construction began in February, 1992, and the tower was scheduled to open next summer. It is adjacent to Stupak's hotel and casino, and is being built by Stupak's Stratosphere Corp. at a cost of at least $32 million.

The project has been controversial. Federal Aviation Administration officials have urged the city not to allow its construction because of concern that the height would interfere with air traffic at McCarran International Airport, which is about two miles away.

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