Friday, May 31, 1991 | 2 a.m.
Arcing electricity from the twisted wreckage of the huge Vegas World sign ignited a rooftop fire early today forcing the evacuation of all but the bottom four floors of the hotel-casino.
The high winds toppled the sign about 6 p.m. Thursday, leaving it hanging partly over Las Vegas Boulevard.
When power was restored shortly before dawn today, wires torn loose sparked onto the roof. Six engine companies and two ladder companies -- two dozen firefighters in all -- responded to the fire.
Battalon Chief Gary Sorensen said guests were able to return to their rooms "after maybe half an hour." Some guests stood outside, wrapped in blankets against the biting wind. Two mothers cuddling sleeply, warmly bundled toddlers, were among the crowd at the main casino bar, where most evacuees drank coffee from plastic cups.
The Vegas World coffee shop stayed open, providing coffee and breakfast rolls to inconvenience guests.
"We were supposed to go back home yesterday," said a visitor from Fort Smoth Ark. "It'll be a while before our next trip."
Because of the dangling sign, the intersection of Main Street, Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Louis Avenue was blocked off at 6 p.m. Thursday. City spokesman Doug Bradford estimated those major streets would be closed most of today, until the danger of falling debris has been eliminated.
A crew of workmen from Young Electric Sign Co. were scheduled to remove the wreckage of the sign this morning and police expected to have the roads open by 9 a.m.
The casino was without power for several hours and hotel guests were not allowed to leave the hotel through the front door because of the danger from the dangling sign.
Despite the power outage Thursday night, backup generators provided enough power for some casino visitors to play blackjack and several rows of slot machines.