By Kelsey Givens
Multiple emergency and law enforcement agencies responded to a property on W. Simkins Road Thursday after a home that was possibly “booby trapped” with ammunition and other items caught fire in the early morning hours.
Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue Services, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Nye County Sheriff’s deputies and the FBI were investigating a property at 2721 W. Simkins Road after a double-wide manufactured home caught fire around 3:30 a.m.
NCSO deputies were reportedly the first to arrive on scene and advised firefighters of possible dangers noted in their call history for the address.
“Deputies arrived and clarified the address for us and told us there was fire showing and they gave us a series of cautions, I guess they’re familiar with the property,” Fire Chief Scott Lewis said. “They gave us precautions about things like extra security around the property, so as a result of that, we arrived, confirmed it was a structure fire and based on those earlier reports we took a defensive exterior attack for safety reasons.”
Though he couldn’t go into too much detail about all of the precautions deputies gave firefighters about the property, Lewis said an example of the “extra security” measures they were talking about may have included metal sticks placed in the ground by the home’s owner to deter trespassing.
“We don’t know if they’re founded or not, but I’ll give you an example. You know those punji sticks, the metal pieces sticking out of the ground so people step on them? Those were the kinds of things we were warned about. And there is some evidence that suggests that, but there’s so much material placed around the property we haven’t confirmed anything,” Lewis said.
Firefighters spent hours battling the blaze and were able to put out most of the fire and prevent it from spreading to other structures on the property.
Lewis said they were not able to extinguish all of the flames right away, however, as they couldn’t access the inside of the home for both investigative and safety reasons.
“We called the state fire marshal, but for us to fully suppress it, extinguish every aspect of it, we would have to destroy some of that physical evidence — the roof, the rest of the walls, we would have to clear it out because of the dangerous conditions. Now we’re in a holding pattern where we can go in and finish the job once we finish the investigation,” the fire chief said at the scene.
An FBI Las Vegas bomb squad could be seen searching the property as the home belched smoke. The squad, dressed in full gear, checked the scene to make sure it was safe for firefighters to continue extinguishing the fire.
Despite the risks, no injuries were reported by late Thursday afternoon.
The blaze broke out at the home hours after police recovered a stolen vehicle from the property.
NCSO Capt. Bill Becht said deputies responded to the W. Simkins Road address Wednesday evening in order to retrieve a stolen vehicle. The owner of the property, Phillip Paterniti, who was apparently not home at the time the fire started, was later found and arrested on charges related to the stolen vehicle.
Though Becht said it is not a property necessarily known for illegal activities, there are notes in the sheriff’s office call database for the address advising responding officers to use caution when going there.
Police have reportedly responded to the home in the past for a multitude of reasons, including citizens’ assists and now the recovery of a stolen vehicle.
This week was not Paterniti’s first run-in with local law enforcement either.
He was charged in January by the District Attorney’s Office with unlawful use of a controlled substance, ex-felon in possession of a firearm, aiming a firearm at a human being; discharging a firearm where a person might be endangered and resisting public officer for a Jan. 2 incident near Ambler Way.
Despite those precautions, Becht said he didn’t see anything in the call history indicating anyone has been injured as a result of a booby trap at that location.
As of Thursday afternoon, crews were still working to document the scene and determine the fire’s cause. The fire remained under investigation by PVFRS and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Paterniti is currently being held at the Nye County Detention Center on charges related the recovery of the stolen vehicle found on his property.