Updated August 10, 2022 - 5:09 pm
The midnight sky was filled with orange when Clark County firefighters left Station 26 for a construction site engulfed in flames.
The towering, wind-whipped inferno was so intense that firefighters didn’t get a look inside the partially built apartment complex until the blaze was over. By that point, Capt. Nathan Wyatt recalled, everything had all but turned to rubble.
A year and a half later, the project has been rebuilt and is set to open soon.
Ely at Fort Apache, in the southwest Las Vegas Valley, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday to celebrate its debut and honor first-responders. Developed by The Calida Group, the 206-unit complex near Tropicana Avenue and the 215 Beltway is not finished yet but is expected to be move-in ready in late August.
Commissioner Justin Jones, whose district includes the site, said Tuesday that he was grateful Clark County firefighters responded as quickly as possible to put the flames out and protect nearby communities.
The fire forced the evacuation of adjacent neighborhoods and apartments, the Review-Journal reported at the time.
“That could have been a real disaster for the folks that live behind the facility here,” Jones told a small crowd Tuesday at Ely at Fort Apache.
Calida, one of the biggest apartment developers in Southern Nevada, has said no one was injured in the fire, which federal investigators determined was an act of arson.
Wyatt attended Tuesday’s event with other Clark County firefighters and told the Review-Journal that construction sites are more prone to fire-spread because structures aren’t protected.
But, he noted, such fires aren’t more prevalent in the ever-growing Las Vegas Valley.
“It’s not often that we get large fires like this,” Wyatt said.
The massive blaze at 5055 S. Fort Apache Road started just before midnight Jan. 18, 2021. It burned well into the following day and was battled by nearly 100 firefighters from different departments throughout the valley, the Review-Journal reported.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced Jan. 27, 2021, that the fire was arson and had caused roughly $35 million worth of losses. At the time, the ATF did not say where the fire had started at the under-construction apartment complex or how investigators determined it had been intentionally set.
Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Warren Whitney told the Review-Journal on Friday that a suspect “has been identified but there is not enough evidence at this time to support an arrest warrant. The case is still open and under investigation.”
Wyatt recalled seeing the blaze from his fire station nearly 2 miles away, noting it “grew exponentially” because of strong winds.
“A small fire can turn very large, very fast when it’s being accelerated by wind,” he said, adding there was “no stopping this once it started, period.”