long beach house fire 111314Arson investigators Thursday were trying to determine the cause of a fire at two vacant Long Beach homes at the center of a longtime feud.
The fire was reported around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on Hill Street, the Long Beach Fire Department said. When crews arrived on scene, they could see flames and smoke pouring out of windows of no one home. The fire then spread to the house next door. “First thing I thought somebody wanted them burned down, then secondly I thought maybe the owner wanted insurance money,” neighbor Mary De Los Ieyes said. The 3,000-square-foot homes have never been occupied despite being built more than a decade ago. “These homes were actually never permitted and so there is no street address associated with these homes,” Long Beach firefighter Jake Heflin said. “That’s an ongoing issue with the city and the builder and continues to be unresolved.” The the homes are located in the city of Long Beach, while the sidewalk, street and utilities are a part of Signal Hill. “It’s a shame it cannot be occupied, should be able to work something out with the city. You can see they have a nice view of the airport and the lights at night are beautiful,” said neighbor Terry Buck, who added that squatting has been an issue in the past. Neither city has signed off on the properties and the issue has gone to court several times, according to a Long Beach city councilman. Several years ago, Long Beach sued the owner, who agreed to meet certain conditions by the end of January 2015, or let the city tear the homes down. The owner said the issue with the properties have always been about access to both the homes and utilities. He also said he was in the process of finalizing related paperwork when the fire occurred.
Damage estimates from the fires were not available.