LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The fire department for the City of Las Vegas has been busy responding to several recent fires where squatters are suspected as the cause, but a search of property records often show times its taxpayers who are paying to clean up and secure old buildings.
It is a perennial problem especially in the heart of downtown Las Vegas.
"The one we had downtown off Bridger, we've been to that building at least three or four times," said Tim Szymanski with Las Vegas Fire and Rescue.
Szymanski was speaking about a second alarm fire that recently broke out at a vacant building on the corner of 7th Street and Bridger and left a firefighter and a suspected squatter injured.
"As crews were arriving on the scene, they said they could see squatters exiting the building," said Szymanski.
"One dove out of a second-story window and sustained a serious head injury when they hit the sidewalk," added Szymanski.
Just days a later, 50 squatters were removed from the vacant El Cid Hotel at 6th Street and Bridger after a fire broke out.
"This is a real concern for us that upwards of 50 people continually break into this building and are living here," said Sgt. Beth Schmidt with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments Community Policing unit with the Downtown Area Command.
"We are working to hold this owner accountable," added Schmidt.
13 Action News reviewed ownership records which revealed both burned properties share a common owner; San Francisco-based Good Earth Enterprises, LLC.
Additional records show the company has several liens against the El Cid Hotel property dating back to at least 2001 for clean up and securing the building, work which was conducted by the City of Las Vegas.
"A lot of people call us and say, why aren't you doing this or why aren't you doing that," said Szymanski.
"As far as the fire department is concerned, we go there, and we put the fire out, and we usually secure the building," explained Szymanski.
"This becomes a code enforcement issue," added Szymanski.
Szymanski said there are procedures, protocols, and proper channels that must be followed under the law to remedy any potential situation.
"If it's deemed an immediate life and safety threat, the city has gone in and knocked properties down before," said Szymanski.
13 Action News contacted Good Earth Enterprises, and a manager said the company is currently working with fire officials to properly secure the building again.
The manager said they have complied with everything asked of them but squatters including pimps and prostitutes have routinely broken into the building and it has caught many times over the years since it closed down.
The owners said they are currently looking at selling the property or participating in a joint venture with a developer if the price is right.
In the meantime, they are in negotiations with the City of Las Vegas for the number of liens what are currently on the property.