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Mount Charleston Lodge fire started in storage area

A fire that burned the Mount Charleston Lodge to the ground Friday is considered an accidental blaze that started in a storage area underneath a deck, authorities said Monday.

“It wasn’t suspicious,” said Larry Haydu, assistant Clark County fire chief. “I’m sure it’s going to be determined to be an accidental fire.”

The Clark County Fire Department first received reports of the fire at 4:45 a.m. Friday. By the time firefighters arrived, the historic building and community gathering place was engulfed in flames. A quick response and attack by firefighters prevented the blaze from spreading to nearby cabins or the surrounding pine tree forest.

The Fire Department said at the scene Friday it was believed the fire started near the lodge’s dining area. But Haydu said Monday morning that the fire’s origins were traced to “below the outside deck in a storage room.”

“There was a large outside deck, and even I didn’t realize there were storage rooms under there,” Haydu said. “Apparently it started in one of those storage rooms, burned up through the deck. Then once it got through the deck it started lapping into the dining room. When we first arrived that corner of the dining room, northwest corner, was pretty heavily involved in fire.”

Haydu declined to speculate on what started the fire.

“Investigators could tell where the start of the fire was, but they couldn’t determine a cause within 100 percent certainty,” Haydu said. “So they left it as undetermined.”

Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said in a statement Monday that “a number of potential causes for the fire were identified within this area of origin.”

“These include a number of different electrical and mechanical items. Due to the extent of fire damage to the area, each of these items could not be eliminated as to whether they caused the fire or not. Due to having multiple potential causes of the fire remaining, the exact cause of the fire is undetermined at this time. That said, there is no indication, thus far, that this was an intentional act.”

The area was quiet Monday afternoon. A steady stream of motorists pulled up to look at the spot that is now a pile of sheet metal and ashes.

The space around the lodge was mostly unharmed. All the cabins looked untouched, and only a few trees behind the lodge showed signs of burns. The picnic area off the road also appeared unharmed.

Many people drove from Las Vegas to pay their respects to the former lodge.

Dan Bell stepped off his motorcycle and gazed at the mountains in the distance. He’d been coming to the lodge since 1986, he said, and the last time was about a month ago. Bell, a musician, had played at the lodge many years ago.

He hopes it will be rebuilt, as the owners have vowed to do.

“But it won’t be the same,” he said.

Polly Phillips remembered journeying to the lodge on multiple Thanksgivings and spending time there with her granddaughter. Among her favorite aspects of the lodge were the “quaintness,” the view from the patio and the area with food and water for pets.

“All ages have memories of this place,” she said. “Hot chocolate for the kids, something for everyone. It was good.”

But one thing stood out.

“The fish and chips,” she said. “They had the best fish and chips.”

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter. Contact Jonah Dylan at jdylan@reviewjournal.com. Follow @TheJonahDylan on Twitter.

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