Police: Man’s meth lab caused fire in casino hotel room


ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (AP) — Police in New Jersey charged a man with setting up a methamphetamine lab in an Atlantic City casino hotel room that caught fire, causing four floors to be evacuated.

Wednesday’s fire at the Tropicana casino injured two people — the man who rented the room and later was arrested and a hotel employee who entered the room after the fire was detected. The hotel worker’s condition was not available Thursday.

Police charged Michael Pillar, of Whiting, with maintaining a drug production facility, possession of methamphetamine and criminal mischief. It’s unclear if Pillar, who was being held in the Atlantic County Jail following his release from the hospital, is represented by a lawyer.

Damage from the fire was contained to the room on the 44th floor of the casino’s west tower where the fire occurred. A State Police hazardous-materials team dismantled the lab.

Steve Callendar, the Tropicana’s general manager, said the area is safe to inhabit, and the affected rooms will be available Friday.

“The safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority at Tropicana Atlantic City,” he said. “Only a few rooms were affected by the fire. Hotel rooms have been professionally inspected, and cleared to go back online tomorrow.”

The fire was reported at 9:47 a.m. when a bed and the room’s bathroom was on fire. Fire Chief Scott Evans said a hotel employee used a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze, adding the building’s sprinkler system helped prevent the fire from spreading.

But smoke from the fire caused the temporary evacuation of guests on four floors and had to be vented from the building by using portable fans.

Casino surveillance officers found video of two men and one woman who fled the room before firefighters and other emergency responders showed up.

About 12 hours after the fire, all three were spotted nearby on Pacific Avenue and taken into custody. Two of them were released without being charged.

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