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Squatters pose fire threat in some neighborhoods | News

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Squatters pose fire threat in some neighborhoods

LAS VEGAS -- A fire inside a vacant home on the city's northwest side is shining a light on a growing problem. The fire broke out near Cheyenne Avenue and Jones Road Saturday night.

Homeless people moving into vacant homes and creating their own source of heat.

People who live on Trilogy Drive say the home has been boarded up and abandoned for a few months.

"I wasn't worried until the flames erupted and the embers started flying out," said neighbor Ben Nelson. "I had to run back in and grab my cell phone and call 911."

"Lately what we've seen especially in cold snaps is just people trying to stay warm," said Tim Szymanski, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue spokesman.

He says they are seeing more and more incidents of homeless people breaking into vacant houses to get out of the cold.

"What we're concerned about is we've had fatalities with these in the past," Szymanski said. "Sometimes these people are in a very deep sleep or they're under the influence of a drug or alcohol and their clothing catches on fire."

Numbers from Clark County show -- in 2013 -- there were roughly 35,000 vacant homes in the valley. Police say it is difficult to remove squatters from a home.

"There's a lot of different laws," said Metro officer Malcolm Napier. "Obviously if it was a fire danger that would change things drastically as far as our response. 

Metro has started a task force to crack down on squatters in an effort to avoid more house fires.