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Electrical short that caused Rio evacuations direct result of Wednesday fire

Just one day after a fire in a service elevator prompted a brief 400-room evacuation at the Rio, guests in another 900 of the resort’s rooms were evacuated Thursday morning after an electrical short caused a major, daylong power outage at the resort.

The short was described as a blown fuse, which happened when water seeped into a secondary generator’s electrical conduit within the resort’s Masquerade Tower, Caesars Entertainment spokesman Rich Broome said. The tower is about 50 stories high and separate from the resort’s original Ipanema tower, which sits at 20 stories.

The blown fuse didn’t start a fire, but in the darkness it smoldered, creating smoke that lightly filtered into the Masquerade Tower’s 14th floor about 7:30 a.m. Clark County firefighters responded, and resort staff along with Las Vegas police helped guests evacuate the suddenly powerless tower.

“I’m sure it was dark and not a pleasant experience for guests,” Broome said.

The Thursday outage was a direct result of the small elevator fire Wednesday, which happened after an overflowing sink leaked water into an electrical conduit on the 38th floor, Broome said; sprinklers quickly extinguished the Wednesday fire, but water from those sprinklers ultimately leaked water to the 14th floor, causing the Thursday morning outage.

There were four minor injuries Thursday during the outage, and about seven guests needed special assistance to exit the building.

“It all went dark, and then we heard a commotion in the hall,” said Texas native Amanda Paulsen, who was staying at the all-suite hotel with her husband for the holiday weekend and didn’t understand at first what was happening.

“We went to look and someone said, ‘The power’s out, we have to leave.’”

Broome said guests were gathered in the resort’s Rock Of Ages lounge while the 2,522-suite hotel and NV Energy worked to restore the tower’s power. At the lounge, the hotel provided food and water free of charge to frustrated guests.

Paulsen said staff at the Rio seemed “frazzled” after the second outage, but “they’re trying to take good care of us.”

Power will not be fully restored until sometime Friday, a Caesars spokeswoman said. Rooms at the Masquerade Tower will remain closed Thursday night, while the other tower of the Rio will remain operational.

Guests evacuated from the Masquerade Tower were to be roomed either in the Ipanema tower or at one of the eight other Caesars Entertainment properties on the Strip. As a result, the Rio’s Ipanema tower reached full capacity Thursday, and the other Caesars hotels were “pretty much full,” Broome said.

Anyone who late Thursday still needed to retrieve belongings from their original Masquerade Tower rooms was to be provided a security escort, Broome said. Then, depending on where guests were placed, transportation was provided to reach the other Caesars properties.

The Rio should return to full power by New Year’s Eve, and the outage should not affect business during the holiday, Broome said. He did not disclose how much the outage would cost the resort or exactly how many guests would require accommodations at the other hotels.

“You have the customers who are frustrated, who’ve been displaced,” Broome said, but many Rio customers are still enjoying the facilities. The first floor of the Masquerade Tower was not affected, and so there are still “people eating and playing” on the casino floor, even if they cannot stay in the rooms upstairs.

In November, a power outage similarly forced hotel guests to evacuate the Paris hotel, also a Caesars property. The Paris outage, however, was caused when workers accidentally drilled through the resort’s primary power line. The entire resort — including all emergency lights — went dark, and power wasn’t restored for several hours.

“These are totally different situations,” Broome said. But the incident in November did prepare Caesars in certain ways.

Broome said the Caesars team learned how to accommodate guests quickly after the incident at the Paris. He also mentioned that compensation will be provided for hotel guests but did not offer specifics. Unlike the outage at the Paris, no workers were forced to forego shifts, so the company will not need to compensate the workers for lost wages.

“There are lessons to learn here,” he said. “And we’re working on it.”

Review-Journal reporter Max Michor contributed to this story. Contact Rachel Hershkovitz at rhershkovitz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @rzhershkovitz on Twitter. Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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