Fire at Mobile Home Park 'Suspicious'

June 19, 2012 Updated Jun 19, 2012 at 6:50 PM EDT

By Allen Leight

June 19, 2012 Updated Jun 19, 2012 at 6:50 PM EDT

TOWN OF NIAGARA, NY (WKBW) - Police say the fire that damaged the management building of the Sabre Park mobile home complex Monday night was most likely arson.

The fire, which officials are calling 'suspicious', happened in the wake of residents receiving a new 1 year lease contract from the company charged with managing the mobile home park.

"I wouldn't have been surprised if half the trailers in here burnt last night. People were angry," said Sabre Park resident Julie Myers.

Many residents were upset over the guidelines and rules in the new lease agreement, which they say is something that has never been enforced before.

The company managing the foreclosed mobile home park, M. Shapiro Real Estate, says the lease agreement is standard and is the type used at similar properties the company manages.

Last year residents weren't even sure the land would remain a mobile home park, after owners defaulted on the mortgage and the property went into foreclosure.

In August, a handful of residents received notice that a new owner was working to purchase the land and that it would no longer be used as a mobile home park, meaning residents would have to find a place to move their homes or leave them behind.

The uncertainty led many residents to stop paying rent, and many ended up just abandoning their mobile homes.

A settlement has not been reached in a sale agreement and the property remains in the control of a Federal Bankruptcy Court appointed receiver.

Still, what is left of the park is about 70 occupied homes out of more than 200 that reside in the park.

Last week, the Town of Niagara building inspector and the park management company conducted an inspection of the property and the homes left behind.

130 mobile homes were condemned and have been ordered demolished as a result.

"These homes pose a safety hazard to the residents that are left in the area," said Town of Niagara board member Danny Sklarski.

The vacant homes have been targeted by copper thieves and vandals, who are often seen driving off with truckloads of goods and material taken from the abandoned homes.

The residents who are left say they feel unsafe, and fear vandals may hit their homes next.

"It's a mecca for theft, vandalism and possibly fire," added Sklarski.

The Town Board is looking to pass a resolution Tuesday night that would call on the town inspector and relevant agencies to create a plan to move the demolition of the homes forward, a task that park management says is 'critical'.

Some residents believe park is being allowed to fall into disrepair because the land, which sits next to the Outlet Mall, would be much more valuable to a potential buyer if it was not occupied by a mobile home park.

Many of the residents who are still there, say they are looking to move on.

"[the community], it's just gone... I wouldn't want to stay here," says Myers.

Meanwhile police say they hope to know more details on the fire in the next few days. They have not identified a suspect at this time.