Tropicana Hotel Fire Linked to Customer’s Meth Lab

Tropicana Meth Lab Fire

Michael Pillar’s meth lab caused an evacuation of the hotel’s 44th floor.

Michael Pillar has been taken in to custody by police for setting up a methamphetamine lab in a room in the Tropicana Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. Casino staff and police alike realized Pillar was cooking meth in the Tropicana suite, after the makeshift lab caught on fire Wednesday.

Mr. Pillar and a hotel employee who went into the room after the fire had been detected were the only two people injured from the casino fire. The Tropicana employee’s condition has yet to be released.

Atlantic City Fire Department personnel were the first ones on the scene.

Scott Evans, the AC Fire Department chief, said, “It appeared to be some type of homemade cooker device.”

Meth Lab in the Tropicana

That “home cooker device” was a makeshift methamphetamine lab. Michael Pillar apparently rented the room in order to cook up methamphetamine. Pillar did not take the proper precautions, because the fumes from meth production are dangerous and volatile. If not handled properly, they can explode or catch fire.

When firefighters arrived, they found objects scattered throughout the room, which was entirely filled with smoke.

The fire was reported at 9:47 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The bedroom and bathroom both were filled with fire by the time firefighters arrived. By then, a hotel employee was able to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher before it spread to any other rooms. The Tropicana’s sprinkler system helped to quell the fire, as well.

By the time the fire was out, smoke spread to throughout the floor, causing the temporary evacuation of guests on four floors. Surrounding rooms had to be vented by using portable fans.

Hazmat Team Called In

To ensure their safety, as well as the hotels guests, a State Police hazardous-material team came in to test the air for any vapors that might be excreting from the products that were located in the bathroom, as well as dismantle the lab.

Chief Evans said, “Obviously, initial concern was whether there was a volatile compound or what the flammability was, and these were immediate concerns. We wanted to make sure we were in a safe area.”

In the end, the damage from the blaze was contained to Pillar’s room, which was located on the 44th floor of the casino’s west tower. The Tropicana’s general manager, Steve Callender, cleared the rooms for safety and opened them up for use again on Friday.

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

Michael Pillar of Manchester Township

Pillar, 49, of the Whiting area of Manchester Township, Ocean County, was charged with maintaining a drug production facility, possession of methamphetamine, and criminal mischief. He was being held in the Atlantic County Jail, following his release from the hospital.

Pillar had company while working in his makeshift meth lab. After watching casino surveillance, authorities found video of three people — two men, one being Pillar, and a woman — fleeing the room before hotel employees, firefighters, and emergency personnel showed up.

Nearly 12 hours after the fire on Wednesday, the three were spotted near the 2400 block of Pacific Avenue at 9:27pm. All three were arrested and taken into custody. The other two were released later, without being charged.

About Tropicana Hotel and Casino

The Tropicana Hotel and Casino just recently went under massive renovations, costing the company nearly $200 million in just over two years. The casino/hotel plans on more renovations coming spring of this year.

Tropicana Atlantic City is owned by Carl Icahn, the New York City billionaire who is sometimes referred to as an activist investor and, in the 1980s, was referred to as a corporate raider. Icahn buys distressed companies, turns them into a profitable venture, and often sells them for a big profit.

In 2010, Carl Icahn bought Tropicana Casino in a bankruptcy auction. At the time, many thought Tropicana was doomed to failure in Atlantic City, due to the Global Recession and the Boardwalk’s own failing business model. Icahn made renovations on the property, streamlined management, and brought a new sense of hope to the property.

By 2015, Tropicana was profitable. In Q4 2017, Tropicana was second only to Borgata in generating revenues. The AC casino has been a major success story during a troubled time for many other Atlantic City casinos – including 5 which closed since 2014.