Copper theft in Las Vegas leaves hundreds without power

Jazlynn Roush, left, and her wife Gina, residents at the Ridge on Charleston Apartment complex, ...

Copper thieves are suspected of causing a power outage at a sprawling east Las Vegas apartment complex, leaving hundreds in a crisis for several days.

Kelly Suarez, who lives at the Ridge on Charleston Apartments, 3040 E. Charleston Blvd., said the power went out in her apartment at about 4 p.m. Sunday, and she has been without power and air conditioning ever since.

On Tuesday, the food in her refrigerator spoiled and with temperatures rising, she said, she and her neighbors are suffering.

“People’s lights had been flickering on and off for the past couple of days before Sunday,” Suarez said. “They just said somebody vandalized the wires. They just said someone cut all the wires in each building.”

Las Vegas officials have been told that copper thieves were likely responsible for the outage, city spokeswoman Margaret Kurtz said.

Jean-Guy Gaumond, president of Pacific Electric, confirmed that 500 units lost power. The electrician said his company was hired to repair damage caused by thieves who stole copper from groundings to the complex’s electrical system.

“We’ve been working on it two days,” Gaumond said, adding that he was optimistic power could be restored by late Tuesday.

Kurtz said the city was working with the electrician to perform a “rapid inspection” of the repairs so the power could be turned back on as soon as possible.

“We are prepared to do the inspections as soon as they are ready,” Kurtz said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, two residents said their power had been restored.

Gina and Jazlynn Roush sat on the shaded front foyer of their small apartment Tuesday morning, windows open, trying to stay cool as the temperature rose above 90 degrees. They said their power went out Saturday.

“They didn’t really give us an option of where to go,” Jazlynn Roush said. “We are sitting here, with a bag of ice that we bought last night, but the rest of our food went bad. If you have nowhere to go, you are pretty much stuck here in the heat. Yesterday was rough getting through the day.”

“It was terrible,” Gina Roush said.

The couple said they can’t leave because they have a dog and a cat that just had kittens.

“We have nowhere to go,” Gina Roush said. “Where are we going to go?”

Jazlynn Roush said the two were using their food stamps to buy ice and fast food to survive.

“We just went grocery shopping before the power outage, but we had to throw away most of our food,” Jazlynn Roush said. “Right now we have some lunch meat and a couple of yogurts sitting on top of a bag of ice.”

Several residents also said that they received a mandatory evacuation notice from the apartment complex’s management over the weekend, along with a promise that they would be reimbursed for hotel stays for up to $100 a night.

But those interviewed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal said just about everyone who lives at the Ridge on Charleston is low income, and can’t afford to front the money for a hotel room.

Management initially told residents they should contact the American Red Cross, so Jazlynn Roush reached out to the agency over the weekend, and she received a call back providing more information on potential services.

“If you are going to do a mandatory evacuation, you should have some place for us to go,” Suarez said. “I have my dogs. Some places don’t accept dogs.”

Managers at the complex declined to comment.

Meanwhile, security officers at the complex were observed handing out bottled water to a line of residents at the front of the complex.

NV Energy said the outage was caused by damage to a customer’s equipment. A request for comment with the Metropolitan Police Department was not returned. A Red Cross spokesman said the nonprofit group was prepared to assist at the request of emergency officials.

Resident Tenerese Nunn said there were a lot of extremely angry and frustrated people still staying at the complex.

“Look at our refrigerator. No food,” Nunn said. “All gone. We’ve got nothing to eat. No lights. No water. So how do we survive?”

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