Arson charge pending in Vegas Golden Nugget fire

Associated Press + More

By KEN RITTER, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A 33-year-old man who was rescued by Las Vegas firefighters from a smoke-choked hotel room is facing arson and attempted murder charges in a fire last month that caused minor damage on an unfinished floor but forced the evacuation of dozens of guests from upper floors at the Golden Nugget casino, a fire official said Monday.

Jerod Pressnell was in custody under guard at a Las Vegas hospital, but fire spokesman Tim Szymanski said he will face charges that could get him decades in state prison.

"It was definitely intentional," Szymanski said of the March 15 fire that caused only $1,000 worth of damage.

A motive and method for starting the fire wasn't disclosed. However, Szymanski said arson investigators determined that a hotel safety system had been tampered with before the fire.

Automatic sprinklers snuffed out flames minutes before Pressnell was rescued by firefighters in a locked room filled with boxes of soggy and smoldering linen and bedding on the unoccupied 22nd floor of the casino's 25-story Rush Tower.

No one else was hurt.

Szymanski said Pressnell was from California and had been homeless. Charges were lodged against him after his condition was recently upgraded at the University Medical Center burn unit, Szymanski said.

Pressnell has not yet appeared before a judge, and it was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

Golden Nugget spokeswoman Tiffany Hauck said hotel officials would not comment about the charges.

Officials previously identified the man rescued from the fire as a hotel guest who was in a part of the hotel where he was not supposed to be. Hauck on Monday confirmed that Pressnell was a registered guest before the fire.

After initial on-and-off alarms, sprinklers activated and dozens of firefighters arrived at the 2,345-room hotel in the center of the downtown Fremont Street casino district.

Hotels in Las Vegas and Clark County are required to install fire sprinklers by tough fire codes instituted following the deadly MGM Grand hotel blaze in November 1980 that killed 87 people and an arson fire three months later that killed eight people at the Las Vegas Hilton.

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