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The big fire
The end of the El Rancho Vegas




The capstone to the El Rancho Vegas's career as a casino, the big conflagration of June 17, 1960 was a huge event in Las Vegas, but of course the dice kept rolling along the Strip as Westen America's Finest Hotel burned.

It was a catastrophe but not a tragedy, since no one died and most people suspected, rightly or not, that a fire was somehow fortuituous for Beldon Katleman. So even though it was kind of sad, it didn't bump scantily clad women off the covers of magazines or really change the way people did business in Las Vegas.

Below are a few pieces of the El Rancho Vegas-these charred relics still survive after forty years. They are securely ensconced in the friendly confines of UNLV Special Collections, where they will be preserved for future generations to ponder. Below are archival photos of the destruction that fire unleashed on the El Rancho Vegas.

The show must go on....
Click to see the cover story.


Settling accounts.

The chips are down
Surviving Chips

Left Behind
Burnt currency.

Double nickels on the dime

Remains of the day?

Front desk survivors.

Close up.

As George Stamos noted in his El Rancho Vegas piece, a great deal of money was lost in the fire. In the photos below, a sense of the complete devastation that the fire brought to the El Rancho Vegas can be felt, even over forty years later.

Another close-up.

Fire Photo
Charred remains.

In an atmosphere that is a) crowded, b) filled with cigarettes and c) has kitchens that are sometimes not up to code, there is always the danger of fire. Most along the Strip chose to ignore the dangers until a fire that was truly tragic--the November 21, 1980 blaze at the MGM Grand, which claimed 87 lives. After that fire, people began to take the risk of a more casino fire seriously. Today, most casinos have rigoruous fire safety programs that minimize the possibility of another tragic fire and optimize the safety of the casino's guests and employees.

Inside fire
Total destruction.

Beldon at the fire
Beldon Katleman mourns the El Rancho Vegas.

As a media event, the El Rancho Vegas fire ranks as one of the Strip's bigger stories--not one of the biggest, but still important. Read more about the fire in George Stamos's El Rancho Vegas.

FireAn oasis amid desolation.

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Last modified Thursday, 12-Feb-2009 23:02:02 UTC