Preparing to move in together last summer, a young couple found their perfect nest in a three-story townhouse in downtown Las Vegas.
The natural light streaming through the windows nourished their ever-growing collection of plants. An additional floor allowed them to work from home and their social hangouts were within walking distance.
“It literally fits everything,” said Emily Smith, 28, from across a fence overlooking the couple’s heavily damaged rental home, which burned down in a June blaze believed to be the largest in the world. city for at least a quarter of a century.
Burglars broke into the vacated property days later, ransacked it and vandalized it, she said, “adding insult to injury”.
Small but irreplaceable sentimental items spared from the flames were destroyed.
An art collection that Smith had planned to display was engulfed in flames and the burglars forced the paint out of the tubes, causing unnecessary further damage.
The burglars had draped a quilt over the stairs and a garden wall to help move the stolen items, and they even stayed to smoke pot and drink hot beer from their fridge, Smith said.
Contractors hired to mount the doors and windows failed to protect a window and glass door that were smashed in the burglary, Smith said. She was allowed into the house a few days after the fire and returned to witness the destruction.
“Take what you want, but why do I have to return my Rubbermaid 10-11 bags?” she lamented, “Something you might say is old, a keepsake, don’t touch it. Like, just why?
Smith and her boyfriend Chris Hatchett, 36, who specialize in massage therapy, sound healing, tantra and life coaching, struggled to console each other.
“It was insulting,” Smith said. “I don’t know how to describe this type of violation.”
The locals are fed up
Residents of Urban Lofts Townhomes say several neighbors displaced after the June 19 blaze suffered the same fate and ongoing issues with trespassers and petty crime in their gated community were only exasperated after of the fire.
About 30 residents gathered Wednesday evening on an alley in their community for a lengthy discussion about public safety and their plan moving forward.
During the sometimes contentious conversation, residents talked about their limited options.
The homeowners association had hired security companies and installed lights in the burned section. But the funds were running out quickly, they said, noting that the Metropolitan Police Department had not always responded to their complaints.
Meanwhile, burglaries continued and intruders continued to scale neighborhood walls, they said.
Residents created a private Facebook group, where someone uploaded a video of an intruder they arrested. The man fled and it took police six hours to respond, said resident Matalie Avila.
Metro did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Fernando Miro bought his corner townhouse in 2016 and moved the following year.
In the early hours of the morning, his roommate had called to tell him that the neighborhood was engulfed in flames, and when he arrived he thought “all my stuff was gone”.
He was lucky his house was still habitable, but the fire shattered all his front-facing windows and melted the garage door. His Ring doorbell and security cameras were decimated.
The neighborhood is overlooked by police, he said.
Before the fire, he said, he took his dog to his garden to find syringes, underwear and anything “you can name”.
Numerous calls to the police and the homeowners association have been unsuccessful, Miro said, adding that “it’s very disheartening, it’s very scary, it’s very stressful.”
“It’s so it’s so exhausting,” Miro said. “You don’t even know what to do, because the police don’t support you, the police don’t do anything for you.”
Las Vegas Fire Department officials said the blaze, which they say started in a fourplex under construction, did not appear suspicious. At least 10 buildings, including businesses and units adjacent to the complex, were damaged and dozens of cars were set on fire, officials said.
The homeowners association hosted a Thursday night video call with residents, senior Metro officials, firefighters and Las Vegas City Councilwoman Olivia Diaz.
“The city and I really empathize with everything that has happened and happened since the fire, and we’ve been very diligent in listening to the concerns of all of our constituents,” Diaz told the Review- Log.
Because the resort is privately owned, Diaz said, there are limits to what officials can do. But she noted that Metro has pledged to increase patrols in the neighborhood and that city officials have asked staff to consider installing more lights.
This downtown has had issues with vagrancy due to the number of unoccupied buildings, Diaz said. The project manager for the company building the quadruplex said there were problems with NV Energy, allowing construction to stall and the site becoming a “sitting duck” for intruders.
“There are a lot of places that should be busy,” Diaz said. “We’ve known that Fremont East has been in trouble for some time now, and we’re hopeful that we can move the needle in terms of economic development on this side of Fremont.”
Since the meeting, Metro has organized a patrol patrol in the Urban Lofts complex, and the owners’ association has had cameras installed.
Loss of home
Smith remembers her boyfriend’s scream when the fire broke out. They evacuated their house with only the clothes they were wearing. She remembered the “bright orange” and the insulation engulfed by the blames flying near her in the high winds. She said she urged firefighters to watch her neighbors who had just had a baby.
She stayed at the compound, hitting the door code whenever a fire truck showed up.
A friend had allowed them to stay at her house temporarily, but recently told them they needed to find new accommodation, she said.
Smith also had a dispute with her insurance company, which estimated she would only pay about a quarter of the losses suffered, she said.
A second-floor entertainment center spared the flames and water-logged recording equipment the couple used to launch a podcast and YouTube series about their expertise. The burglars stole this, along with the hard drives that contained their equipment.
“The content is in our brains,” but countless hours of work were wasted, she said. The couple launched a GoFundMe campaign to help restart their lives.
Smith and Hatchett have few options and may need to leave the state. Other rentals are either too expensive or located in problem areas, she said.
“All these little issues were like precursors,” she said. “But at the same time, we loved this house and we loved being downtown with all our friends and our work space.”
She added: ‘I don’t very much regret moving here. I just wish there was more care and consideration for the community that wants to make downtown accessible and easy for everyone.