Squatters causing fire crews trouble

Posted at 9:29 AM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-01 16:44:31-04

Fire officials and neighbors say something needs to be done about the squatters in East Bakersfield.

"We're out here several times a week," Sean Fraley, Battalion Chief for the Kern County Fire Department, said.

The most recent fire started around 9 a.m. Thursday at an abandoned discount store off Niles Street near Virginia Street.

Neighbor Arthur Gann said he lives a block down the street and the store's been closed for a decade. "You can go inside these buildings, I mean they got the roofs out of them, and they start the fires in here. They do all that, I mean it's just trouble every night right here," Gann said.

Gann said he is concerned for his children's safety, he has four children ages 3, 8, 11 and 15. "I walk them to school everyday because I don't trust the neighborhood," Gann said he works with the school to clean up the neighborhood, but these two buildings are 'party houses' that constantly cause trouble.

During the investigation, it became clear this particular fire was not an accident. "The bums were coming out earlier saying that one guy started it," Gann said.

"Yeah whoever started it, they did it for a reason," another neighbor Michael Gonzales said.

This is frustrating for fire crews as these fires take up valuable time and resources.
"This fire today took three fire engines, two ladder trucks and two  battalion chiefs dedicated to this for about an hour and a half," Fraley said.
Fraley said firefighters could have been doing other activities, "actually the first arriving person on scene was out maintaining hydrants."
Officials say all residents can do to is report squatters to code enforcement and safety concerns to local authorities.