LAS VEGAS A fire on the roof of the Monte Carlo hotel-casino forced guests and gamblers to flee and sent flaming embers raining down on the Las Vegas Strip, but firefighters quickly gained control of the blaze. No serious injuries were reported.
The mid-morning fire spread across the rooftop facade, made of a foam building material. Orange flames lapped at the 32-story hotel's name in large script.
An ambulance company spokeswoman said 17 people were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries, mostly from inhaling smoke or from fleeing the building. None of the 120 firefighters who fought the blaze was hurt.
"It could have been very serious," Clark County Fire Chief Steve Smith said. "Due to the aggressive firefighting tactics of our personnel we were able to contain it."
Strict fire codes were adopted for Las Vegas resorts since a 1980 fire killed 87 people down the street from the Monte Carlo at the old MGM Grand hotel, now the Bally's Las Vegas.
Smith said it was too early to assess damage or say what caused Friday's fire, which began just before 11 a.m. and was under control in about an hour. There was no immediate indication of criminal activity or arson, but "nothing is ruled out at this time," Smith said.
Clark County spokesman Eric Pappa said county officials were told welders were working on the roof of the building before the fire.
Smith called the Monte Carlo blaze an exterior fire, which was largely confined to the rooftop and the facade of the upper floors. The facade was made of a foam material that "melted off the side of the building and started a few fires below," Smith said.
Employees went door-to-door evacuating the hotel, said Gordon Absher, a spokesman for the resort's owner, MGM Mirage Inc. The fire chief said no one had to be rescued.<
Larry Wappel, 25, of San Pierre, Ind., said he and his brother, Eric Wappel, were in a room on the 30th floor when they heard housekeeping staff banging on doors and yelling "Fire, get out!" He said it took about 10 minutes to walk single-file down the stairs to get to ground level.
"There were a couple of ladies crying, but it was pretty calm," he said.
Another guest, Renza Badilla, 45, said she exited through the hotel kitchen to find burning debris and embers falling from the roof.
"I think people were shocked when they saw the smoke," said Badilla, who said she was in the buffet on the main casino level when fire alarms sounded.
Guests were taken to the MGM Grand Garden Arena, and employees were evacuated to the adjacent New York-New York hotel, Absher said. Hotel officials said guests would be moved to other MGM Mirage hotels in Las Vegas. They estimated the hotel, with 3,002 guest rooms and 211 suites, was almost full and about 900 workers were on duty when the fire began.
Huge crowds formed to watch the fire, and traffic on the Las Vegas Strip was gridlocked as streets were blocked off around the hotel.
The nearby resorts Bellagio and New York-New York were not evacuated.
The Monte Carlo opened in June 1996 on Las Vegas Boulevard near Tropicana Avenue.
The casino-hotel modeled after the Place du Casino in Monte Carlo, Monaco, was a joint venture between Steve Wynn's Mirage Resorts and Circus Circus Enterprises.
The 1980 MGM Grand fire was the deadliest in state history. That hotel was rebuilt and sold in 1985 and renamed Bally's. It is now owned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc.