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Investigators sift through debris at deadly Las Vegas fire

December 23, 2019 GMT
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Investigators walk through an interior corridor after a fire at a three-story apartment complex early Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019 in Las Vegas. The fire was in first-floor unit of the Alpine Motel Apartments and its cause was under investigation, the department said. Authorities say multiple fatalities were reported and many more were injured. (AP Photo/David Becker)
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Investigators walk through an interior corridor after a fire at a three-story apartment complex early Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019 in Las Vegas. The fire was in first-floor unit of the Alpine Motel Apartments and its cause was under investigation, the department said. Authorities say multiple fatalities were reported and many more were injured. (AP Photo/David Becker)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Investigators were going room-by-room Monday at a downtown Las Vegas apartment building where six people were killed and 13 injured in a fire over the weekend to determine what started the blaze.

City officials said at a news conference Monday morning that investigators were also looking into claims from some residents that smoke or fire alarms weren’t working properly and some residents were using stoves to stay warm because the building didn’t have heat.

Las Vegas City Councilman Councilman Cedric Crear, who represents the neighborhood mixing downtown entertainment and bars with aging apartment motels, said he assured residents that the city would conduct a thorough investigation.

“Hopefully justice will be served because there seemed to be a lot of discrepancies going on at that facility,” Crear said.

The predawn fire appeared to start Saturday around a stove in a first-floor unit of the building, forcing some residents to jump down from upper floor windows to escape thick smoke blocking exits.

Firefighters began treating the injured and helping rescue people hanging or jumping out of windows, according to Las Vegas Fire & Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski. He said three people were found dead inside the building and three outside after the fire was extinguished.

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It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone died from falling or jumping out of windows.

Rick Jones with the Clark County Coroner’s Office said Monday morning that the office did not have any information to release about the six people who died. He said the office was still waiting to confirm the identities of the victims and contact their family members.

Robert Nolan, the Las Vegas city fire marshal, said Monday that there had been past code complaints over the years at the Alpine Motel Apartments. Nolan said all of those complaints had been addressed within a week or two by the owner and none was pending at the time of the fire.

He said the fire marshal’s office was last at the building in May 2017 after a complaint that the fire alarm system wasn’t working properly, but it was fixed within a week.

He said it wasn’t unusual for an older building like the Alpine Motel Apartments, which was built in 1972, to have had complaints over the years.

“It’s like having a laptop computer that’s 30 years old. It’s going to have issues,” he said.

Nolan said his department’s inspectors, along with officials from the city code enforcement office and dangerous building team were assisting firefighters and police officers as they sift through debris to investigate the start of the blaze and the spread of smoke and flame.

“It’s a painstaking process. We’ll go room by room, floor by floor,” Nolan said.

Nolan said the team would also be testing the individual heating units in each apartment to see if they were working.

There was no publicly listed phone number to contact the building’s owner named in state business records.

Malinda Mier, the building’s co-owner, told Las Vegas TV station 13 Action News that she was saddened by the loss of life but wasn’t aware of any issues with heating. She said that the building was up to code.

“We have code enforcement and the health department comes out and everything that needs to be fixed gets fixed in a timely manner,” she said.

The Associated Press was unable to reach Mier for further comment.

The city opened an assistance center Monday for residents of the building to meet with Red Cross and get help with housing and other services.