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Clark County leader calls for major changes after fire at notorious apartment complex

Posted: 6:08 PM, Aug 06, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-07 11:08:22-04

Clark County leaders are pledging to take a look at a fire code loophole after another deadly fire at an apartment complex with a notorious history.

The Solaire Apartments located at 1750 E. Karen Avenue has changed names several times over the years but its building construction and susceptibility to raging fires has not, according to fire officials.

"I've got God and God is good," said Sibil Williams who lost everything in the fire, Sunday.

"He saved my life," she added.

Some people managed to escape the fast-moving fire but one woman was not as fortunate.

"I am concerned about my neighbor, she said her daughter went back in to get her dog," said Williams.

"I'm thinking her daughter did not make it out with the doggy," she said.

The Clark County Coroner has not identified the victim as of Monday.

Fire officials say the roof of the 8 unit apartment building collapsed.

Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell did not hold back about the dangerous conditions and gave his candid assessment to news reporters.

"I've known this complex for 30 years, I've been on the fire department for almost 30 years and in that time, 1750 E. Karen is a complex that has wood siding and it's an older style building," said Chief Greg Cassell.

"This is an address that is known to us over the years for having rather significant fires," said Cassell.

"This type of building is no longer allowed to be built in Clark County or anywhere in Southern Nevada," added Cassell.

A deep search of the 13 Action News archives reveals the lengthy history of fires:

JUNE 27, 1993

  • TWO ALARM FIRE SENDS RESIDENTS RUNNING
  • FIRE AND EXPLOSION REPORTED
  • $250,000 IN DAMAGE
  • NO INJURIES REPORTED

APRIL 29, 1994

  • TWO ALARM FIRE
  • AN ELECTRICAL MALFUNCTION IN AN AIR CONDITIONING UNIT WAS BLAMED.
  • NO INJURIES

JULY 7, 1995

  • TWO ALARM FIRE 

APRIL 7, 1996

  • TWO ALARM FIRE
  • RESIDENT USING A BBQ ON A PATIO BLAMED FOR FIRE
  • FOUR APARTMENTS SEVERELY DAMAGED
  • FOUR PEOPLE SUFFERED MINOR INJURIES

March 7, 2000

  • DEADLIEST FIRE IN CLARK COUNTY IN 19 YEARS
  • 4 PEOPLE KILLED, INCLUDING 3 CHILDREN AND A DISABLED MAN
  • 36 PEOPLE LOST EVERYTHING
  • UNKNOWN CAUSE

Additional Fires Reported by 13 Action News:

Chief Cassell said the complex and subsequent rebuilding efforts have not been subject to current day fire codes because they have been grandfathered into compliance.

“You have buildings that were built under existing code, and thus are allowed to be built and rebuilt on that existing code for the future," explained Cassell

"So, all the buildings [at this location] that have burned down over the years, they get rebuilt in the exact same fashion that they were when they were originally constructed, when they were under the original permits and under the fire codes that were in existence," said Cassell.

Clark County records list the property's original construction year as 1980.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani  calls it a loophole and says rebuilding efforts need to be subject to modern fire codes.

"I've asked the fire chief to see if we can make a code change to require buildings to have to come up to current code when we have this kind of situation," said Commissioner Giunchigliani.

"To me, its about safety for the public," said Giunchigliani.

"The renters are in jeopardy," added Giunchigliani.

County leaders are calling for a working group made up to fire departments and city leaders from around Southern Nevada to come up with a solution.

Commissioner Giunchigliani says she is not calling for retrofitting existing buildings, but rather, require new construction or rebuilding efforts to be subject to present-day fire codes.

There could be a fix for the rebuilding loophole by the end of 2018.

A spokesperson for Westland, the owner of the Solaire Apartments on Karen released the following statement:

Westland is serious about doing everything possible to ensure the safety and wellbeing of each of our residents.

Unfortunately, a fire broke out Sunday from unknown causes. We are working with our residents to relocate them within the property as soon as possible.
The unfortunate loss of life and property is still under investigation by the LV Firefighters and we all await their findings.

On Sunday in the midst of the emergency, we ensured that all  affected residents had food, water, clothing and other necessities such as diapers. We also have been working with the Red Cross to assist all residents .

We thank the dedicated firefighters, police, and paramedics who have helped our residents in this terrible situation.

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