LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Squatters are a major concern for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department after recent vacant building fires in the downtown area.
Crews responded to a fire Monday morning at a vacant hotel in Downtown Las Vegas on 6th Street and Bridger Avenue.
According to Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, heavy fire and smoke was seen coming out from a window on the second floor of the former El Cid Hotel just before 9 a.m.
Firefighters were able to contain the blaze soon after arriving to the scene and rescued seven people from the building.
No injuries were reported but police said around 50 people were inside the abandoned hotel and several ran out when police arrived to the scene.
LVMPD issued several citations and arrests for trespassing. The El Cid Hotel continues to be a major concern for the LVMPD Downtown Area Command.
"Upward of 50 people continually break in this building and are living in there. We're working to hold the owner accountable," said Sgt. Beth Schmidt.
Officers aren't only putting the pressure on squatters, but also owners of the countless vacant buildings in the area that have caught fire because of squatters.
“With the City of Las Vegas, with code enforcement and with fire, this is a real concern for us that an upwards of fifty people continue to break into this building and are living in there," Sgt. Beth Schmidt, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. "We are working to hold this owner responsible."
There are safety concerns for firefighters as well.
Las Vegas Fire Rescue say they've been called out to the El Cid corner at least twice in December.
"We don’t know if we’re going to get shot or stabbed because we will find these people laying on the floor and we don’t know if they’re a victim,” says Tim Szymanski, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Public Information Officer.
The solution won't be overnight. Sgt. Schmidt says it's now a team effort, involving agencies valley wide.
“we need to work very very closely with our partners here in the city, with our homeless outreach teams, we have them here today that are offering their services but we also nee dour owners of businesses to be held accountable," says Schmidt.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. This is the second fire in the last month at the El Cid with another fire happening on Nov. 17.