I watched a $7 million house on fire today

Is that a sensationalistic clickbait title? Yes.

But is it technically true? … Also yes.

Living in a high-rise on the Strip with a vast, unobstructed view of the city, suburbs, and mountains has its perks, one of which is the fact that I can always see what’s going on in almost a third of the Las Vegas Valley just by looking out my sliding glass door.

Today, the interesting event of the day was a house fire at 224 W Cincinnati Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89102. This is a small, run-down house on the south side of the Gateway District, in an area formerly known as “Naked City” because it was the area where show girls would sunbathe naked in the 1950s. This blog post with a clip of a garbage truck accidentally dumping trash all over the road is dash cam footage from Naked City.

Today, Naked City is just a low-income neighborhood between the Strip and downtown, behind the Stratosphere. When I say “low income,” I mean that in the most extreme way possible—Naked City is often perceived to be the most dangerous place in Las Vegas, and rent prices for apartments in the neigh­bor­hood can be as low as US$500.00 per month for a unit.

Now, the perception of danger isn’t completely unfounded, but the area has gotten tre­men­dously better recently. This area was a hotspot for illicit drug transactions and prostitution, but with government assistance, the streets are much safer now.

This all probably sounds incredibly underwhelming. Why in the world would I be blogging about a random house catching on fire? … Well, it’s because this house is $7 million.

Something probably doesn’t add up in your head, and I don’t blame you. How can this house—a house that looks like it’s about to collapse—in an ap­par­ent­ly terrible neighborhood go for $7 million?

First, I guess it would be prudent for me to demonstrate that I’m not just making this up. ABC 13 KTNV Las Vegas ran a story almost four years ago about this property, and you can check for yourself in the price history on the Zillow page for 224 West Cincinnati Avenue that it was indeed on the mar­ket for US$7,000,000.00, originally listed by Simply Vegas, then later taken over by Keller Williams Marketplace, with momentary representation by Plat­i­num Real Estate Professionals.

So, why $7 million? The easy answer is that it’s not about the house; it’s about the land.

Remember how I said earlier that the government has been assisting with cleaning up Naked City? The downtown and northern side of the Strip is un­der rapid development right now, and many people are projecting that the area will flourish and prosper very soon. The owner of that plot of land is prob­a­bly expecting the area to explode in growth so much that there will be some entrepreneur who will want to snatch up that “premium” plot of land to get a head start.

There are some substantial flaws with that thought process:

  • The street leading into the entrance of the building is important. If this was a plot of land with a direct opening to Sahara Avenue or Las Vegas Boulevard, then it wouldn’t be as outlandish, but no matter how close this property is to the “busy area,” it still involves driving through shady-looking back streets to get there.
  • The neighborhood still matters. Even though the area is improving, it’s a slow and gradual process, and it’s still not at the “tipping point” where it’s worth it to get in on the redevelopment. There’s getting in early, then there’s getting in very early… and then there’s getting in too early. We’re still at the too early point right now.
  • That lot is zoned as residential. If an entrepreneur were to come along and purchase the plot of land to start a business to capitalize on the im­prov­ing conditions of the north Strip, they would have to petition and go through an excruciating approvals process with the city to convert the land into commercial zoning before they can get permits to begin construction.

With that being said, if it wasn’t already just about the land and location… now it definitely is. The Clark County Fire Department and the Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Department responded today to 224 W Cincinnati Ave to reports of a fire. I observed the firefighters hard at work tackling the problem.

224 West Cincinnati Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89102

I guess they had trouble gaining access into the property, because they started climbing on the roof and bringing out what sounded like chainsaws. E­ven­tu­al­ly, they put a hole through the roof, and billows of smoke started coming out from the opening.

224 West Cincinnati Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89102

It reached 106°F (41°C) today, but this was captivating enough and standing in the shade of my balcony was tolerable enough that I watched for about half an hour. I was watching this from over 500 feet away, so I obviously couldn’t hear anything they were saying, but what I was able to make out just from my observations was that the house was vacant at the time of the fire, someone else called to report smoke coming from the house, and the fire­fighters had to force entry to ensure the property was clear.

Shortly after they put the hole through the roof, the smoke poured out then stopped, so I imagine they were probably also able to gain access through the back as well to extinguish the source of the blaze.