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Police body cams capture moments after massive downtown fire

Updated June 28, 2022 - 5:49 pm

Police body cameras captured officers evacuating residents from apartments during a massive, fast-spreading fire in downtown Las Vegas.

The June 19 blaze, deemed by officials to be the biggest in the city in the past quarter-century, engulfed at least 10 buildings, torched dozens of cars and displaced more than 100 residents.

The Metropolitan Police Department released the first three videos Tuesday.

When officers arrived at the scene, one yelled at other officers to “start banging doors!” Officers went door to door in an apartment complex banging on doors and in some cases kicking them in if they did not get a response.

“You guys got to go,” an officer told a resident who opened a door.

Las Vegas fire officials previously said the cause of the blaze, which they believe originated in a vacant, under-construction fourplex, did not appear suspicious.

“Hey, sir, you need to head out. I appreciate your help, but get the ones further down,” an officer said to a security guard knocking on doors. “I can’t have you down here.”

Las Vegas Fire Department crews initially spotted clouds of smoke billowing from the Urban Lofts Townhomes, 200 Tower St.

“We were going down Charleston, we saw like a … three-story construction completely engulfed way too hot to even get near it,” a Las Vegas city marshal told Metro officers. “We started hearing screams for help.”

Flames quickly spread to adjacent buildings, including occupied town houses in the complex, as well as businesses, officials said.

“How do we know these are clear?” a Metro officer asked another officer as the fire spread to another building.

He then asked a passing firefighter if officers should breach the nearby doors.

“If they don’t come out, they’re not in there,” the firefighter said. “We’ll get in there after … If they’re banging and they don’t come out, they’re not going to be home for the most part.”

The American Red Cross of Southern Nevada was helping displaced residents, and officials have not disclosed a possible cause.

Officers noticed a resident walking in the complex and asked him where he was going. When the resident tried to get in his car, the officers stopped him.

“You got to go, sir. This place is on fire, let’s go,” an officer said. “Hey, you can’t drive, you’re going to run over lines and damage the lines. Go out on foot.”

Officers continued knocking on doors and borrowed tools from the fire department to bash in security fences and screens. At one point an officer came across a man trying to move his car inside his garage.

“Hey sir, you can’t take the car, you can’t take the car,” the officer said. “You got to go sir. Sir, you need to go.”

The resident responded: “I know. I will. I just want to put my car away.”

“No, sir go!” the officer responded.

When officers breached one security fence they found a dog at an apartment where no one was home.

Residents and the complex developer at Urban Lofts had complained about intruders and squatters breaking into the under-construction fourplex, the completion which was stalled because of issues with NV Energy about power lines, residents and officials said.

Despite the material damage, just one person had minor smoke inhalation, officials said.

About 140 firefighters from across the valley responded to the four-alarm fire.

Las Vegas Fire Department spokesman Tim Szymanski said Monday the investigation into the fire is ongoing.

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter. Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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