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Las Vegas man charged in arson that razed 10 under-construction homes

Updated September 21, 2021 - 10:31 am

A Las Vegas man has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree arson in what authorities say was the deliberate torching of a tract of under-construction homes in the southwestern valley.

The Sept. 2 fire at the KB Home property at Coja Street and Desert Cassia Avenue, near Russell Road and Durango Drive, destroyed 10 rising homes and caused at least $1 million in damage. Court records now show that Elijah Faasavalu, 20, was arrested by Las Vegas police at the fire scene some 11 days later.

Police wrote in an arrest report for Faasavalu that at 11:03 p.m. Sept. 13, a security officer at the Desert Cassia property came across a man sitting on a curb at the construction site and asked what he was doing there at such a late hour.

“He told (the security officer) that he wanted to go to jail and that he was the one who set fire to the model homes last week,” police quoted the security officer as saying in Faasavalu’s arrest report.

Officers were called and identified the man as Faasavalu. During questioning he again said he started the fire that burned down the homes, police said.

Clark County Fire Department investigators were called to the scene. The investigators asked Faasavalu to describe his actions on the night of the fire.

“Faasavalu stated he walked from his cousin’s house where he is currently staying at and made his way to the model homes,” police said. “Faasavalu then saw some palm tree remains laying on the ground and he gathered them up and took them to the second story of a model home and soaked them with approximately 10-12 cans of chafing oil.

“He then lit the pile in multiple spots and threw the lighter in the fire,” police said. “Faasavalu stood around for approximately 30 minutes waiting for a good fire to start.”

Faasavalu was quoted in the report as telling investigators he was “not pleased with the fire,” so he went home and went to sleep.

The fire illuminated the Las Vegas Valley sky and could be seen for miles, authorities have said.

Police said Faasavalu pointed out the home he started the fire in. He also led them to a discarded chafing oil can with knife marks on it in a nearby portable toilet, police said.

“(An investigator) asked Faasavalu … what caused him to light the fires, and Faasavalu stated he planned it for two days and decided he wanted to go to jail so he set fire to the model home,” police said.

The fire at the KB Home property unfolded nearly seven months after a massive fire broke out just a few miles away at another real estate property under construction. The Jan. 18 blaze at the Ely at Fort Apache apartment complex, 5055 S. Fort Apache Road, was ruled arson, but there have been no arrests in the case. That fire caused $35 million in damage.

At the time of the fire on Desert Cassia, Clark County fire investigators said they were trying to determine if there could be a connection between the two blazes.

Clark County Fire Deputy Chief Warren Whitney said in an email Tuesday, however, that Faasavalu is not a suspect in the Ely at Fort Apache fire as he was not in Las Vegas at the time. The investigation into the fire on Fort Apache is ongoing, he said.

Las Vegas Justice Court records show a criminal complaint was filed against Faasavalu on Sept. 16. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 30. A public defender has been appointed to represent Faasavalu in court.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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