weather icon Partly Cloudy

Alpine owner’s hotels had smoke detector violations, records show

Updated January 6, 2020 - 9:10 am

The company that owns the Alpine Motel Apartments was told by health officials in May to ensure that three of its hotels had functioning smoke alarms and heating and air conditioning units following a series of health code violations, records show.

That order, and others, came after the Southern Nevada Health District determined that the Starlite Motel in North Las Vegas did not meet “minimum sanitation standards.” The 30-room property exhibited “a continuing pattern of failed inspections, verified complaints and repeated substantial hazard violations,” according to a letter summarizing a meeting between health district officials and Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC managing member Adolfo Orozco.

“It’s really like a sanitation intervention,” said Vivek Raman, the health district’s environmental health supervisor. “It’s not common.”

The health district gave Orozco a five-point plan to implement not only at the Starlite Motel but also at the Casa Blanca Hotel and Economy Hotel. The three hotels and the Alpine Motel Apartments are owned by Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC.

In addition to the order pertaining to smoke detectors, the health district instructed the three hotels to maintain adequate pest control measures and outfit rooms with sanitary mattresses. Raman said the mandate was not extended to the Alpine Motel Apartments, which last month became the site of the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas city history, because it operates as an apartment complex and the health district does not regulate private residences.

Since the meeting, the health district has not cited any of the three hotels for smoke alarm-related violations. However, the Casa Blanca Hotel failed a follow-up health inspection in October.

Las Vegas attorney Chris Anthony, who previously said he represents the ownership of the Alpine Motel Apartments, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Orozco was unable to be reached for comment.

Longtime high-profile Las Vegas attorney Dominic Gentile confirmed to the Review-Journal on Friday that he had been retained to represent both Orozco and Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC. Gentile said he was focused on the Alpine Motel Apartments fire and could not comment on the health district’s findings.

An early-morning blaze at the Alpine Motel Apartments killed six people and injured 13 more on Dec. 21. Las Vegas fire officials have said that they think the fire originated from a stove in a first-floor unit and that residents have reported that the building did not have heat. Some survivors told the Review-Journal that the smoke detectors in their rooms did not activate during the deadly blaze and that the building’s rear exit door was bolted shut.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said Metropolitan Police Department homicide detectives are conducting a criminal investigation into the fire. A photo shows the rear exit door of the Alpine Motel Apartments barred shut more than two months before the fire.

Other Vegas properties

County property records show that Orozco and his wife, Erika Ayala Aguilar, own 20 residential properties, including both single-family and multifamily homes.

Health district employees have kept a close eye on hotels owned by Las Vegas Dragon Hotel LLC, Raman said.

The health district must inspect hotels at least once a year, but records show that the Starlite Motel was inspected twice in both 2018 and 2019. The Casa Blanca Hotel, also located in North Las Vegas, has been inspected seven times and faced eight complaints from tenants since September 2015.

“I would definitely say the Casa Blanca (Hotel) and Starlite Motel were on equal par,” Raman said.

Health district inspectors have also cited the two hotels multiple times for violations related to smoke detectors, records show.

In May 2018, health district employees inspected three rooms at the Starlite Motel, and none had functioning smoke detectors. During a follow-up inspection one month later, nonfunctioning smoke detectors were found in five additional rooms. Inspectors also noted problems with HVAC systems in eight rooms, including one that was “installed with duct tape.”

Two rooms at the 50-unit Casa Blanca Hotel had either missing or inoperable smoke detectors when health district employees inspected them in May 2019, records show.

The 15-unit Economy Motel in downtown Las Vegas has faced repeated health code violations since late 2017 for having rooms with stained mattresses, pillows and bedding. However, the 16-room motel has not faced any violations related to smoke detectors.

Raman said the health district’s meeting with Orozco in May was cooperative and productive. The agency will continue to keep a close eye on the properties.

“We always want voluntary compliance,” Raman said. “We are showing them these (violations) don’t require a health inspector to see.”

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Davidson is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Las Vegas officials vow close look at deadly Alpine Motel fire

Las Vegas and Clark County officials pledged Monday to closely examine the causes of the city’s deadliest fire, and to work to ensure older buildings are safe for residents.