A fire in a three-story apartment building in downtown Las Vegas where residents were using their stoves for heat killed six people and forced some to jump from upper-floor windows to escape before dawn Saturday. Investigators reported that the fire started around a first-floor unit's stove and that residents told them there was no heat in the building, which sits a few blocks from downtown Las Vegas’ touristy Fremont Street District. By the time Matthew Sykes got his clothes on to flee, one end of his second-floor hall was choked with thick black smoke, as was a stairwell, making it impassable for him and his wife. "The whole place was like one big black cloud of smoke—couldn’t get down the stairs,” Sykes told the AP. Firefighters arriving at the scene began using ladders to rescue people already jumping or hanging from windows, rep Tim Szymanski said. "The first thing that you think of is: We've got to rescue those people. A fall of 16 feet or higher can be fatal."
Thirteen people were injured, mostly from smoke inhalation, but victims also had fractures, Szymanski said. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that a pregnant woman in her first trimester fell after her hands slipped on a rope of bed sheets while descending from her third-floor apartment, leaving her with multiple fractures. Her husband told the newspaper that medical personnel told him the fetus' heartbeat appeared strong. Three people were found dead in the apartment where the fire started, Szymanski said. It wasn't immediately clear if anyone died after falling or jumping from windows. The cause of the fire appeared to be accidental, and the fire was largely contained to the first-floor unit where it started in the stove area. Firefighters found the burners on. Sykes said he heard a smoke alarm go off only after he and his wife were already out in the hallway contending with the smoke. “I’m telling you, that place is totally not fit for anybody to live,” he said.
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