Argentina Annual Celebration Goes Awry When Casino Catches Fire

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Posted on: March 28, 2023, 07:43h. 

Last updated on: March 28, 2023, 01:05h.

A routine celebration held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, almost turned into a complete disaster. The annual ceremony includes the symbolic burning of a characterized theme, such as politics or the environment. This year, wayward embers set fire to the roof of a historic building that houses a culture center and casino.

The fire-damaged roof of the Central Casino in Mar del Plata, Argentina
The fire-damaged roof of the Central Casino in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Wind may have caused embers from a fire during a celebration to ignite the roof. (Image: La Nacion)

The fire destroyed a sector of the roof of the Central Casino in Mar del Plata, but didn’t reach the rooms located below. Local media outlets reported that only minor water damage occurred as firefighters worked to control the flames.

The structure, known locally as the Bustillo Complex, houses the casino, a local office of the casino commission, the Palace Sports gym, and other tenants. While holding the ceremony close to a historic structure makes sense on one hand, the fire is now leading local officials to wonder if they should move it.

Erasing a Piece of History

The images bystanders captured, shared by local media, show how the wind caught embers from the burning figure during the ceremony. Some of those made their way to the roof of the historic building and ignited the blaze.

Firefighters from around Mar del Plata arrived to tackle the blaze. The type of structure, with its high, pitched roof and limited access, made it difficult for them to access the sector on fire, reported Civil Defense sources.

With cranes arranged in place as part of the prevention operation, the firefighters arrived with hoses to control and encircle the fire. Others made their way to a terrace, which they accessed by a theater elevator.

Six fire crews worked the scene throughout the night, putting up an “ash guard” to monitor the possible emergence of new outbreaks in the burned area. Eight hours later, the fire was under control. But the images show permanent damage to the roof.

Once it’s safe to inspect the damage closely, local authorities will figure out how to proceed. They may try to source the same material used from the building’s original construction almost 80 years ago.

History Takes a Wrong Turn

The Valencian Fallas celebration is organized every year by the Valencian Regional Union in Mar del Plata. The 69th edition of the festival, as in previous years, was taking place in front of Colon Plaza. It’s a celebration with a message of cultural awareness that features different themes and structures each year.

This year, the theme was “construction or deconstruction” of the environment. To bring the ceremony to a close, the 12-meter-high (39 feet) Fallas statue was set on fire. It didn’t include pyrotechnics, in accordance with regulations that took effect in 2022, but culminated in a proxy light show.

The fire is what the locals refer to as the cremá, a type of cremation of the theme being displayed.

The statue is always made of wood, paper, and other combustible materials, but there haven’t been incidents like this in the past. It only takes one accident to alter the course of history, though, and the statue’s design and event location are now up for debate.


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