A fire broke out near the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas just two days after the city reopened casinos to the public – as fire crews prepare for a high-risk fire season in Nevada.
Several bushes and trees along Las Vegas’ Interstate 15 were set ablaze on Saturday afternoon, sending murky smoke billowing into the air.
The fire was spotted around 1.20pm near what looked to be the employee entrance to the Bellagio, a resort owned by MGM Resorts International that generated more than $405million in operating income in 2018, Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
Foliage located along Interstate 15 in Las Vegas, Nevada, caught on fire Saturday near the Bellagio Hotel and Casino
The flames were spotted around 1.20pm reportedly across from the Bellagio’s employee entrance
Fire crews rushed to the scene where the brief inferno was extinguished around 1.40pm.
There appeared to be no structural damages as a result of the blaze.
It’s not immediately clear what started the fire, but it comes as Nevada prepares for a high-risk fire season amid protests and the coronavirus.
According to the Associated Press, the National Interagency Fire Center predicts dry conditions, above average temperatures and heavy fuel loads will cause a higher wildfire risk than most years.
It’s not immediately clear what started the fire, but fire crews extinguished the blaze by 1.40pm
There have been no reported structural damage as a result of the fire
The National Interagency Fire Center predicts Nevada will experience a higher wildfire risk than most years
Fuel reduction refers to fuel accumulations, also known as fire loads. Fire load refers to amount of flammable material surrounding a fire.
‘We are looking at a pretty big fire season, Nevada Division of Forestry Firewarden Kacey KC told state lawmakers at a legislative committee hearing this week.
‘When we saw the seasonal outlook this year, we’re looking at fuel loads of 100 to 300% of our normal carry-over from last year as well as new fuel loads from the spring moisture we received.’
More than 140 fires have scorched more than 10,000 acres across Nevada and in May, a wildfire torched 1,118 acres of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
In June 2019, Nevada lawmakers passed a bill to give the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources an extra $5million to fight fires.
But as a legislative committee discussed how much to spend on prevention efforts, Sen. Pete Goicoechea admitted he’s concerned about overspending on fire prevention due to anticipated pandemic-related tax revenue loss.
‘I’m a little nervous about with the shortfall in the budget and whether we should be moving forward (spending the funds),’ said Goicoechea.
Goicoechea, a rancher who represents vast swaths of rural eastern and central Nevada, also said it was difficult at times for officials to reach agreement on where to focus on fire prevention and fuel reduction efforts.
Pictured: The Bellagio Hotel and Casino, which generated more than $405million in operating income in 2018
‘I’m just concerned that, in another 30 days, that livestock is going to have to move to higher elevations,’ Goicoechea added. ‘We will have a tinderbox in the lower elevations.’
Reno Fire Department Chief Dave Cochran said at a 2020 Fire Season Outlook conference Wednesday that ‘fire doesn’t really care that there’s a pandemic.’
‘We’re going to have to do our job, but we can minimize the risk,’ he added.
Firefighters in Cochran’s department have already contracted coronavirus and he said they’re aware of how easily it could spread through the ranks.
Protests over the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in police custody last week, also carry the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
‘Having a social conscience doesn’t mean you can ignore social distancing,’ Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
‘The coronavirus is Public Enemy No. 1. It believes that no lives matter.’
The concern on the continued coronavirus pandemic comes as casinos along the infamous Las Vegas Strip official reopened on Thursday.
The famous fountain outside the Bellagio hotel on the Las Vegas Strip roared back into life as crowds of people had lined up across Las Vegas late Wednesday night as after 78 days of shutdown
The public were allowed back into casinos transformed by new health and safety measures to combat the spread of the virus.
BELLAGIO, LAS VEGAS STRIP: A guest cheers as an employee of the Bellagio takes his temperature on arrival Thursday. It is one of many new safety measures as part of a phased reopening of the economy including social distancing guidelines
All staff wore masks or face shields as they returned for the first time since March 18 and gamblers were stationed further apart at tables as part of the new protocol.
Many casinos have also constructed glass partitions between slot machines and gamblers at tables to keep them apart and in certain hotels guests were required to take a temperature check before they entered.
Hotel-casinos in suburban Sin City were the first to open at 12:01 a.m., but larger locations such as Caesar’s and Bellagio opened later Thursday morning.
The iconic Bellagio fountain restarted up with a display in tribute to healthcare workers.
Outside on Freemont Street, guests also lined up to count down and as 12am hit, the crowd began to push forward.
THE BELLAGIO, LAS VEGAS STRIP: ‘ A man plays craps at the reopening of the Bellagio hotel and casino on Thursday
DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: A D Casino employee is seen wearing a face shield on the first night of reopening. Employees must wear masks or a face shields under new safety requirements imposed to stop the coronavirus spread
Many of the guests pictured appeared unconcerned with the threat that the coronavirus could still pose, however, and crowded together without masks to get inside.
According to Fox, the casino welcomed close to 2,000 guests with a free one-way flight to Las Vegas, with no obligation to stay at their property or sister location, the Golden Gate.
All guests were required to receive a temperature check before they picked up their champagne at socially distance counters.
Inside, slot machines were placed further apart as social distancing was encouraged.
DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: Crowds line up outside The D Casino to count down to midnight when revelers can return to gambling for the first time in 78 days. The casino reopened at 12.01am after closing because of coronavirus on March 13
The reopenings come as Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, continues to have the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the state.
According to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, there are 9,460 cases of coronavirus in the state and there have been 437 deaths.
While new cases and deaths from coronavirus are not rising dramatically in Nevada, they are also not falling. The state has maintained a steady average of new cases a day over the past month.
There are big hopes for recovery as casinos are allowed to reopen across Nevada from an unprecedented and expensive shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘There’s a tremendous amount on the line, not only for casinos, but for the community and the state,’ said Alan Feldman, a longtime casino executive now a fellow at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
‘This is an extremely important moment.’