Local News


Third fire at complex likely caused by squatters

Posted at 2:47 PM, Jan 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 09:33:42-05

A vacant complex goes up in flames again. 

Action News obtained cell phone video that shows the terrifying moments after the latest blaze Sunday morning.

Firefighters responded to a blaze at a vacant apartment building near where another vacant apartment caught fire in November. The fire was around 8:30 a.m. at 2308 Tam Drive, near Sahara Avenue and Industrial Road.

"If they want to stay here, they'll find a way to get in," said Danny Sanchez, manager of Tam Apartments. 

Part of the complex is occupied by tenants. Those apartments are secure, said management. However, squatters have moved into some of the vacant buildings nearby.  

When firefighters arrived, there was heavy smoke showing from the two story wood frame/stucco apartment building with ten units.  The building was boarded up and had no utilities connected to it.
It took firefighters approximately 30 minutes to bring the fire under control.  It was confined to the one building which was heavily damaged.  Damage was estimated at $150,000.
Fire investigators determined the fire started in one downstairs apartment. A small medical oxygen bottle was found in the ruins of the apartment.  Fire investigators said the bottle exploded.

The fire then spread through the walls to the second floor and attic area. 
Two fires occurred in another vacant building just down the street at 2320 Tam Drive on Nov. 28 and 29.  Those fires were also in a building used by squatters.

In November, Sanchez showed Action News the damage after squatters started that fire. 

Management has installed bars, locks, and high fences to keep the intruders out. Sanchez and another employee also conduct daily checks of the property. 

But the squatters always find a way to get in, said Sanchez. 

Action News spotted people living in tents outside the building as well.

"They are kind of moving into our property now," said Sanchez.

Sanchez frequently calls police but said the unwelcome guests always come back. 

Management is determining whether to board up and remodel the apartments or tear them down.

There were no injuries associated with Sunday's fire. No other buildings in the area were damaged.