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Survivors look for stability after deadly Las Vegas fire

Updated December 22, 2019 - 6:02 pm

Johnathan Wilson showed up at the Alpine Motel Apartments early Sunday with the shock of the lethal fire at the building a day earlier still fresh in his mind.

Wilson and his wife, DeJoy Wilson, lived there and narrowly escaped the Saturday morning blaze that killed six and injured 13 by shimmying down from their third-story apartment using a makeshift rope crafted out of bedsheets. DeJoy Wilson fell during the escape and was seriously injured. She remained hospitalized at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

“My wife needs an additional MRI scan at 11 a.m. because they are not sure about the ligaments in her neck and if they are broke,” Johnathan Wilson said. “They just found out that her ribs are broke, her back is broke, the lower left back. She’s coughing up blood still.”

Johnathan Wilson came back to the Alpine on Sunday to find Las Vegas police guarding the property. This was reassuring because he was concerned the homeless would break in.

“All of our stuff is in the apartment, all of (the) paperwork to prove this and that, IDs, birth certificates, everything is in there … It is a struggle,” he said.

Johnathan Wilson said the American Red Cross gave him $480 to find temporary housing, but the fear of not knowing what the future holds weighs heavy.

“We’ll see how long that lasts,” Johnathan Wilson said of the money. “We paid up our rent until April here, so we are wondering what is going on, whether they are going to give us our money back.”

The Red Cross’ Southern Nevada chapter said Sunday morning it had provided assistance to 38 people affected by the blaze.

The city of Las Vegas is also planning to open a family assistance center Monday to help victims.

“We were working on cases late into the evening, and we anticipate the number to rise,” said Red Cross spokeswoman Jennifer Sparks.

Arnold Stalk of the nonprofit Veterans Village Las Vegas has reached out to city officials and the Red Cross to offer assistance, including access to food pantries.

“What I really need is a needs list,” Stalk said. “We can try and help fill that. We have a lot of help we can offer, assistance with food and with access to blankets, towels, health and beauty supplies.”

The fast-moving fire swept through the downtown property, 213 N. Ninth St., at 4:13 a.m. Saturday when most of the residents were sleeping. Five of the 13 injured were in critical condition.

The fire is the deadliest blaze in the city’s history, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said, though not the deadliest in Clark County history. In 1980, a fire at the MGM Grand (now Bally’s) killed 87 people and injured more than 600.

Szymanski said the city set up a hotline for victims and loved ones trying to track down family members and details about their conditions.

“Right now people inside the state of Nevada can call 2-1-1 for information on loved ones,” Sparks said. “People affected by the fire in need of assistance can call us at 702-369-3927.”

In a statement, the city said it will open the Alpine Hotel Family Assistance Center at Dula Gym, 441 E. Bonanza Road, at 9 a.m. Monday to help those displaced.

Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore on Sunday thanked first responders and others who helped rescue as many people as possible. The tragedy could have been even worse without the bravery demonstrated at the fire scene.

“The city as a whole is heartbroken,” Fiore said. “Thank goodness for our first responders making sure that it wasn’t worse than it was.”

The city and the Red Cross both said they’ve received inquiries from the public as to how people can help. The city directed those who want to make financial donations to the Nevada Community Foundation.

“Anyone wanting to help the families can use The Community Healing Fund to assist with housing and supportive services,” the city said.

Many residents were trapped in second- and third-story apartments of the building, with several witnesses saying a rear exit door at the complex was locked shut.

Las Vegas firefighters rescued many from the burning building. Others jumped from windows as smoke enveloped the interior of the structure.

Szymanski said investigators don’t yet have confirmed identities of those killed.

“The investigators are continuing to conduct their investigation and are still taking statements,” Szymanski said. “They are trickling in and we are continuing to catch up with people. We don’t even have identities yet on the victims. We need that as part of this, too.”

The Clark County coroner’s office, which is closed on weekends, had not released the names of the deceased as of Sunday.

A previous version of this article misidentified the hospital treating DeJoy Wilson.

Contact Glenn Puit at gpuit@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0390. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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