LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — While dirt and traffic headaches turn into extravagant Las Vegas Grand Prix (LVGP) grandstands and world-class racing structures, first responders are preparing for potential obstacles to reach thousands of spectators and hotel guests during three days of street closures.
The track that’s in place today – nearly four miles of public roads, including the Las Vegas Strip – once looked much different. That’s according to Renee Wilm, CEO of the LVGP, who told 8 News Now in June that police originally raised red flags due to a lack of evacuation routes.
“A lot of safety changes,” Wilm said during a summer tour of the paddock building, referencing different county and law enforcement input that altered the original track layout. “We’ve also made changes to some of our hospitality structures, to where we’re placing grandstands in response to concerns from Metro.”
But, in the eyes of Clark County Fire Chief John Steinbeck, this event could be “the safest place you can be,” if done properly. He says this even as race cars are anticipated to fly at over 200 miles per hour past spectators crammed into towering grandstands with little access outside the circuit for hours at a time.
“The other complication for us is that we have some of the largest resorts in the world that are right in the middle of it,” Steinbeck said inside the Clark County Commission Chambers, referencing how 23,000 hotel rooms will be isolated when the track is in use.
While he says emergency response preparations for this event have been in the works for over a year, he also points to similar-sized events that fire personnel already work: New Year’s Eve fireworks, concerts and sporting events at Allegiant Stadium, and the long list of annual conventions.
And even after sending personnel to other American race host cities for experience in navigating the crowds, concerns remain. Those other events were all held inside a facility, not on public roadways like LVGP.
“We can only gain so much from the other communities, and the rest we have to figure out on our own,” Steinbeck said. “Do we have concerns of evacuations and all those things? Yes, but we’re making sure those are addressed. Can we get resources into those places? Yes. Can we get communication over, that there’s a need for emergency services over there? Are we watching those areas properly? The answer will be yes.”
Specialized training and equipment for Clark County firefighters could be put to the test on the track when only racers are on it. Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously gave the county manager authority to negotiate with the firefighters union for extra preparations.
It’s at the request of LVGP, the associated staff report says, to train firefighters how to assist with a fire on the track, a driver trapped or injured inside their vehicle or an emergency in the pit.
“It’s in our wheelhouse, it’s just a little bit different,” Pat Rafter, IAFF Local 1908 President, said to commissioners Tuesday morning. “We needed to make sure and take the steps, from my members, to be protected on the workman’s comp, specifically the respiratory equipment and the PPE.”
County staff said during the meeting that F1 will reimburse the county for the extra expenses.