Local News


UPDATE: House fire near Charleston, Eastern likely started by squatters

Uptick in squatter fires during colder temps
Posted at 5:57 AM, Dec 28, 2016
An early morning house fire Wednesday caused $15,000 in damage. 
The fire was reported around 5 a.m. at 2105 Ballard Drive, near Charleston Boulevard and Eastern Avenue. One firefighter was taken to University Medical Center for a minor ankle injury.
Officials say the house appears to be vacant and that the fire was likely started by squatters.
"There's things laying around, like food wrappers, usually a bed roll," said Tim Szymanski of Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. "Some of them are pretty elaborate, where they've been staying for an extensive amount of time."
Neighbors told officials that an adult male squatter had been staying in the house for several weeks. The structure previously burned and neighbors say the same man was squatting then.
One man who lives near the home said this was not the first time something like this happened. 
"It happened a couple months ago, same thing, people squatting in there, sleeping in there," he said. 
He said he has been homeless so he understands. 
"I think maybe they might start a fire to keep warm or something," said the neighbor. "I can't see where they'd let it get out of control and burn the house down."
Szymanski said most squatters would not set a fire intentionally and ruin their shelter, and this time of year, when it's cold at night, is the time when squatter fires spike. But the total number is also going up.
"It's about 50 to 60 fires a year," said Szymanski. "It's gone up a little bit, maybe five years ago it was about 40."
That number works out to about one percent of the total fires handled by Las Vegas Fire & Rescue.
Szymanski says if you think you have squatters near your home, call police or the city building and safety department, which is cataloging squatter houses.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.