SAN ANTONIO – A suspicious fire that ripped through an abandoned mobile home overnight in east Bexar County has reignited questions about the safety of the troubled property.
The fire, which started around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Jasper Mobile Home Park in the 6700 block of Walzem Road, is now under investigation by the Bexar County Fire Marshal’s Office.
Officials at the scene ruled it suspicious because the structure was unoccupied and had no electricity hooked up to it, according to a preliminary report released by Bexar County Emergency Services District 10.
A man who helps manage the property told the KSAT 12 Defenders via telephone Thursday that it is only about 20% occupied by rent-paying tenants.
He said many of the other units are either abandoned or being occupied by homeless people who do not have a rental agreement.
He said the problem of squatting, occupying an otherwise uninhabited building without permission, has become so bad on property that management has begun destroying units after clearing out people.
Last year, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar called the property “an ongoing problem area,” and described comprehensive enforcement actions there as one of the main reasons some deputies from his community policing unit were racking up thousands of dollars of overtime a month.
“I think in the long run these people will be happier when they can be safe and sound. Not some place with a bunch of vacant trailers that God knows what’s going on in them,” said Salazar during a January 2019 interview.
Days after the interview, the sheriff’s Interagency Mutual Partners Affecting Communities Together (I.M.P.A.C.T.) Taskforce carried out ‘Operation Jasper,’ which uncovered various code violations and rescued stray dogs from the property.
John Ripley, who owned the mobile home park at the time of the operation, said via telephone Thursday he is no longer affiliated with the property but that it is clear that problems persist there.
Salazar said during a Thursday afternoon press conference on BCSO’s COVID-19 response at the jail that enforcement efforts continue at Jasper, and that he had personally visited the property within the past few days.
“That new owner needs to know that he’s adopted a whole lot of problems and he’s adopted our eye, that we’re going to keep looking into what’s going on,” said Salazar.