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Man finds message of hope after fire destroys Las Vegas complex

Updated June 18, 2019 - 4:35 pm

For Richard Gacovino, stepping into Suite 228 always felt more like coming home than going to work.

“It was a magnificent place to walk into every day,” he recalled Tuesday.

For the last three years, he had poured every bit of himself into that 1,100-square-foot space nestled into the east side of The Park at 3900, a business complex near Paradise Road and Twain Avenue. What he had to show for it in the end was a multicamera studio, four television sets, a hand-built 24-foot-tall green screen, a soundproof audio booth and, finally, his own multimedia production company: Gacovino & More.

But on Monday, a massive fire burning more than 12 hours ripped away all those years of work. In its path, it left behind burnt rubble, ash and the shell of what once was a two-story business complex housing 24 suites.

Gacovino woke up at 7:45 a.m. Monday, rolled over in bed and reached for his cellphone.

Tapping the screen awake, he said, a flood of notifications emerged.

Confused, he scrolled through the unread text messages. One stopped him in his tracks: “Is your studio close to the fire?”

He raced to the blocked-off intersection of Paradise and Corporate Drive in his truck, but the extent of the fire’s damage was hidden behind the thick, unwavering smoke.

Gacovino went home and cried.

“I don’t know if I was crying because of the physical loss or for the hard work that was put into building my dream and losing some of the things that can’t be replaced overnight,” he said Tuesday.

Investigation continuing

Clark County Fire Department investigators estimate it could be weeks before they determine a cause.

The building, which property records show was built in 1986, was not equipped with sprinklers and likely did not have smoke detectors, the department has said. County spokesman Dan Kulin on Tuesday said that the building was up to code at the time of its construction and its owners were not required to install a sprinkler system as county code has grown stricter over the years.

Investigators suspect that the fire, which likely started in the building’s common attic, could have been burning for hours before anyone noticed.

The Fire Department said Monday that it had not been alerted by a smoke alarm company. Instead, the blaze was reported around 3 a.m. by a guest staying at a nearby La Quinta Inn & Suites.

By the time firefighters arrived, the intersection in front of the complex was shrouded by smoke. Crews initially were not even sure which building was on fire, according to Fire Chief Greg Cassell.Las Vegas fire

Early in their efforts, a small group of firefighters entered the building but failed to find the source of the smoke before flames “blew out of the side of the roof,” Cassell said Monday. The firefighters then retreated just before the ceiling collapsed.

Cushman & Wakefield is the leasing company for the office building, which has been owned by RREF II GCM Acquisitions, a limited liability company, since 2013, according to the Clark County assessor’s office.

Requests for comment from Cushman & Wakefield were not returned.

A message received

On Tuesday morning, after a sleepless night spent tossing and turning, Gacovino returned to The Park at 3900 with his longtime friend and business associate, Bart Torres.

“I had to see the damage for myself,” he said.

Gacovino, 54, wearing a seafoam-green polo shirt and sunglasses, was speechless as he approached the yellow caution tape blocking off the massive pile of rubble. He stopped under the shade of a large palm tree, looked down at his feet and let out a long sigh.

But what he saw in his peripheral vision stopped him short.

“That’s mine,” he said.

A bubblegum-pink electric guitar and a metal street sign reading Abbey Road sat propped against the same palm tree offering him relief from the blistering summer heat.

Somehow, two props from his music set had survived the unforgiving fire. Gacovino thinks a firefighter must have pulled them from the debris.

That same Abbey Road sign can be seen in the background of the main image on his production company’s website.

He said the props were a message he didn’t know he was searching for. They were screaming at him, “Hey, we made it out of the fire. You can make it out of this, out of any obstacle or challenge,” Gacovino said.

“It’s a message directly to me and a message I’d like to share with anyone else directly affected by the fire,” he said, a soft smile emerging from the corners of his mouth.

Gacovino got another surprise Tuesday morning when he learned friends had started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to rebuild the studio and replace the equipment he lost in the fire.

“I can’t believe that anyone would want to donate to me,” he said. “Las Vegas is amazing. We rise up every time there is tragedy and we come together.”

Torres responded, “Of course we’re helping, man. You’re one of the best guys out there.”

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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