Silver Tailings: The Golden Hotel Blaze


Early on the morning of April 3, 1962, workers were welding in the basement of Reno’s Golden Hotel. The oxyacetylene tank exploded, erupting into flame.

The workers tried in vain to put it out, but before they could,  it was burning upward to the ground floor. New car, parked as a jackpot prize, caught fire and soon the flames were racing through the entire hotel.

There was no sprinkler systems and no central alarm. Many guests learned about the fire only when they called the front desk to check on the time.

When they tried to escape they found the hallways choked with smoke and flames. Some of the guests were trapped.

Police and firefighters led a number of people to safety. An elevator operator made repeated trips saving as many as 40 guests.

Hoses poured water on the blaze from the nearby seven-story Harolds Club. A forest service plane dropped several 250 gallon loads of water trying to extinguish the flames.

Originally built-in 1905, the Golden had several  make-overs through the years, including a facade with blinds or shutters containing horizontal slats over the upper floor windows. These blinds blocked escape and efforts to get water on the flames.

Finally a near-by construction crane was brought in to bust holes in the slats. But even those efforts couldn’t save the building.

The Golden eventually collapsed leaving six people dead.

The hotel was rebuilt, but the owners ran short on money and it was leased to its neighbor, eventually becoming the foundation for Harrah’s. Today there’s nothing marking the tragedy.

However a block away there’s a memorial to the victims of a more recent and even deadlier fire. The Mizpah Hotel literally stood in the shadow of the Golden as it burned.

Over 44-years later, on Halloween night 2006, the Mizpah went up in flames due to arson, killing 12 people.

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