Sagebrush Ranch will come back from flames

MOUND HOUSE - A prostitute at the Sagebrush Ranch brothel told investigators she awoke to find her bed in flames.

Investigators said they believe the Wednesday morning fire started when a lit candle fell off the woman's nightstand, igniting her sheets. The woman ran out of the building.

Three others were taken to Carson-Tahoe Hospital, two for smoke inhalation, one for anxiety.

A representative of the Nevada State Fire Marshal's office said Thursday the fire will be ruled accidental.

Brothel-owner Marvin Gates said he plans to rebuild. More than half of the facility was gutted and the business is temporarily closed.

A day after the fire, Gates was assessing the damage to the 4,000-square-foot pre-manufactured brothel, located off of Highway 50.

"We'll get started here pretty soon," he said, standing at the edge of the rubble. Gates said the property, reportedly worth more than $250,000, was insured.

Fire investigators were working in the ashes at the other end of the building, sorting through blackened pieces of trash and burnt mattresses, looking for confirmation that a candle caused the blaze.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Bryon Slobe said his office doesn't deal with the salvage effort, but nearly everything that stood in the path of the flames was destroyed.

He pointed to a ventilation system as a probable culprit for the rapid spread of the fire. The system ran throughout the brothel, allowing hot air from near the fire's source in a building on the west side to flow throughout connecting buildings.

A vent hood stood on the roof, directly above the bedroom where the fire is believed to have started.

The problem of the open corridor connecting the bedrooms was compounded by the lack of available water at the time that fire officials first responded. Before they could start battling the flames, the 35 responding firefighters had to fill up water trucks at hydrants at least a half mile from the brothel.

Gates said about 50 employees were displaced by the fire, many of whom went to the houses of friends and family in town and as far away as Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

"They live lives outside of here," he said. "They come and go, but it's like family. When you live together that's how it is. It's like a dormitory.

"They're a good bunch of girls who work hard for their money just like everybody else. I'm just glad everyone got out all right."

No Sagebrush customers were inside the building at the time of the fire. One witness said Wednesday is the brothel's slowest business day.


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