Prior Lake casino's afire, but gamblers play on
PRIOR LAKE, Minn. The casino roof was on fire, but several floors below the smoke and flames, the gamers played on Thursday morning at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake. A hint of smoke was in the air and a few dozen gamblers closest to the fire w...
PRIOR LAKE, Minn.
The casino roof was on fire, but several floors below the smoke and flames, the gamers played on Thursday morning at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake.
A hint of smoke was in the air and a few dozen gamblers closest to the fire were being urged to evacuate. But Irene Weingartz, 77, of Mankato wasn't ready to budge.
"I had a $110 bonus on my machine," she boasted. "I said, 'I'm not moving until I cash out.'"
The official who was shepherding patrons gave her time to collect her winnings. Then she moved to another slot machine in the part of the casino that was still open. It wasn't as lucky, she said, and she pined for her lucky slots behind the yellow tape of the evacuation line.
Above, firefighters were hacking through the roof and fighting the flames, carving a hole next to the huge "Mystic Lake" sign. Fire trucks sat in the parking lot with their boom ladders looming over the three-story building, spraying water through the frigid air.
Weingartz was still thinking about the slots. "I can't go across the line to the machine," Weingartz said from her new perch as firefighters worked away on the roof. "I guess there are enough other machines."
The fire was in a closed section undergoing remodeling, but managers moved the players to a safer part of the huge game room as a precaution, said casino vice president Bryan Prettyman.
Firefighters contained the fire, which started about 9:30 a.m., within 90 minutes and no one was injured, said Mdewakanton Sioux tribal officials.
"I came for the brunch," said Paul Kicksey, 64, of Savage. "It was hazy over there," he said, gesturing toward the taped-off section. "The place is half shut down. I've never seen it like this."
The smoky aroma after 11 a.m. didn't deter Kicksey or more than 100 others who lined up for the 2-for-1 brunch deal. Fresh customers ambled into the casino from the glassed-in skyway extending half a block to a parking ramp.
Prettyman said he has heard plenty of stories about casino players riveted to their gambling machines as threatening situations unfolded around them in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
"Their motto is 'This too shall pass,'" he said.
The fire started when a welder was cutting steel and a spark flew into nearby foam insulation just under the roof, Prettyman said. Construction workers grabbed fire extinguishers but couldn't douse the fire.
Firefighters from Shakopee, Prior Lake and Mdewakanton Emergency Services responded and had the fire under control by about 10:45 a.m., said tribe emergency services director Jim Muelken. The driveway iced up near fire trucks from draining hose water in the frigid temperatures.
Abby Simons and Paul Walsh contributed to this article.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.