Updated December 4, 2021 - 7:38 am
The site of the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas city history is slated for a new beginning.
New owners of the Alpine Motel Apartments plan to turn the boarded-up property into modern studio apartments. It’s been almost two years since an early-morning fire in the downtown building killed six residents and injured 13.
Henderson resident John Burnette, one of the buyers, said fire safety is of paramount importance in the project.
“We’re installing all new fire sprinklers, treating it like a new build,” he said.
The Alpine’s former owner and landlord, Adolfo Orozco, has now sold nearly all of what was once a multimillion-dollar portfolio of two dozen local properties that he, his wife and their four companies owned at the time of the fire.
Burnette’s company, DLUX Investments, along with Las Vegas-based Apogee Capital Holdings and Ambleside Properties in Canada, paid $1.9 million for the three-story property and its adjacent parking lot in August, property records show.
Burnette said the new DLUX Lofts will keep the Alpine’s brick masonry, constructed in 1972, but it will feature completely renovated interiors. He said the apartments should be open by or before early 2023.
“It’ll be 42 units of living space that downtown desperately needs,” he said.
Burnette said he’s part of a group of investors that have purchased and renovated three nearby Las Vegas apartment complexes in recent years. Revive Arts District, Revive Medical District and Groov Studios feature colorful murals on their facades, and Burnette said he wants DLUX Lofts to have one honoring the Alpine fire’s victims.
“We want to make sure we do it right and memorialize, not forget, what happened at the Alpine,” he said.
The Alpine caught fire before dawn on Dec. 21, 2019. Investigators later determined the deadly blaze originated from an unattended stovetop inside a unit in the middle of the building’s first-floor hallway. The exact cause of the fire remains unknown, but it was ruled accidental. Dozens of low-income tenants were displaced.
A Review-Journal investigation revealed that the Alpine, an extended-stay hotel, had a history of fire code violations. The newspaper also reported that an audible fire alarm had been silenced a month before the deadly blaze, and that the property had not been inspected by fire officials in the 32 months leading up to the fire.
After the fire, city officials found more than 40 potential fire code violations at the Alpine, including a rear exit door that had been bolted shut. Investigators described the building as “squalid.”
Residents alleged their units’ heaters and smoke detectors did not work, among other unsafe living conditions. They used ovens and stovetops to warm units. The property also tested positive for asbestos after the fire, according to court filings.
Orozco and former Alpine manager Malinda Mier each face six charges of involuntary manslaughter, along with multiple other felony charges, stemming from the fire. The criminal case is on hold awaiting a court ruling.
Orozco’s former empire
Orozco, who also goes by Adolfo Orozco-Garcia, began amassing his real estate portfolio in 2004, when he was working in Northern California as a second-grade teacher. He bought the Alpine in 2013 for $805,000, under his company Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC.
At the time of the fire, property records show Orozco, his wife Erika Ayala and companies tied to them owned 24 properties in the Las Vegas Valley. All but two of those properties have been sold since the fire, records show.
Orozco’s family still owns their 6,250-square-foot mansion in Las Vegas, which they bought for about $1.5 million in 2017, as well as a condominium. A four-bedroom home in North Las Vegas, owned by Orozco since 2007, was sold at foreclosure auction in November.
The remaining portfolio of single-family homes, apartment buildings and four hotels has sold for almost $9.7 million combined, more than double what records show they were initially purchased for.
Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC sold the Starlite Motel for $1.4 million this May, after buying it for $1 million in 2016.
Last year the company also sold the Economy Motel and Casa Blanca Hotel for more than $3.1 million combined. It purchased the properties in 2012 and 2015 for less than $1.6 million combined.
The Casa Blanca in North Las Vegas now operates as a Studio 6, a chain of extended-stay hotels operated by Motel 6.
Last year, as part of a lawsuit against Orozco, former District Judge Rob Bare ruled Orozco needed a court order to sell any assets worth more than $25,000.
District Judge Carli Kierny in June permitted the Alpine’s sale. Orozco will not have access to the sale’s proceeds until the conclusion of the consolidated civil lawsuit.
The money would be used in the event of a judgment against Orozco that isn’t satisfied by insurance money, said attorney Robert Murdock, whose client Christian Spangler suffered a severe brain injury during the fire.
All the attorneys involved in the case agreed to the sale of the Alpine, Murdock said. They’ve also had to agree on terms of any property sales that Orozco made since the court-ordered injunction.
“It was better for everyone — mostly our clients — to allow that sale to take place, as long as there’s protection of the money,” he said.
Dozens of former residents have filed lawsuits, many of which have been consolidated.
This week, Orozco and his company, Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC, filed a lawsuit against multiple people allegedly involved in the fire, including the resident who was living in the room where the fire started, the city of Las Vegas and the companies that monitored the building’s fire alarms.
Contact Briana Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.