Firefighters battle blaze near Las Vegas casino

LAS VEGAS (AP) — An electrical transformer exploded early Sunday behind a row of Las Vegas Strip casinos, knocking out power to parts of some resorts and touching off a smoky blaze that snarled freeway traffic and send flames 80 to 90 feet in the air.

A transformer on a street behind the Monte Carlo resort blew up about 12:30 a.m., police spokesman Lt. William Scott said.

There were no reports of any injuries and no one at the resort was affected, but power was temporarily cut to parts of the building, Scott told The Associated Press.

The exterior lights of the nearby Aria Resort & Casino and Vdara hotel at CityCenter also went out, apparently because of the fire.

Fire crews established a perimeter and let the fire, fueled by oil from the transformer, burn for about 30 minutes to help alleviate a large oil spill in the area, said Stacey Welling, a spokeswoman for Clark County fire.

“Crews put out residual fire quickly after most of the fire had burned itself out,” Welling said.

More than an hour after the explosion, a reporter positioned about 500 yards away said there were no visible flames and firefighters were dousing an area where smoke was emanating.

The northbound lanes of nearby Interstate 15 were shut down for a time because of debris from the explosion and poor visibility caused by the smoke, but was reopened.

Scott said the transformer was likely connected to a power pole.

Several people posted links to photos and videos of the blaze on Twitter, drawing widespread attention to the fire.

A short video clip on YouTube showed the blaze apparently in its initial stages with flames shooting into the sky, with the New York-New York and other hotel-casinos in the background.

The Monte Carlo experienced another fire in January 2008, with flames caused by flying molten metal devouring a foam-like building material on the 32-story resort. Thousands of guests and employees were evacuated, but no serious injuries were reported. The resort’s owners, MGM Resorts International, refurbished and reopened the rooms on its top floor.

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Associated Press writer Bob Seavey in Phoenix contributed to this story. Oskar Garcia can be reached at http://Twitter.com/oskargarcia .

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