NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — A situation involving a squatter living in a camper took a devastating turn over the weekend as a fire erupted, reducing the camper to ashes and putting lives and property at risk.
On Friday, FOX 4 investigated a North Fort Myers woman grappling with a squatter residing in a camper on her property. On Sunday night the camper engulfed in flames, leaving the property owner in a state of shock and loss.
Heather Rowe, the property owner, expressed her situation, stating, "As you can see, it's burned to the ground, there's nothing left, it's just ashes."
The fire, which broke out in the middle of the night from Sunday to Monday, was investigated by fire officials. According to their preliminary findings, the fire appears to have been accidental, stemming from equipment failure. The focus lies on a battery and inverter inside the camper, suggesting a malfunction as the cause.
Investigators said that the squatter had left the scene but later returned to explain he was asleep when the fire broke out.
As the property owner comes to terms with the loss, she contemplates her next steps,
"In a way, I'm happy; I think this means that I'm at the other end of it, and that the nightmare may be over."
Jacob, the property owner's son expressed his disappointment, "We were supposed to sell this, and I was going to get a car with the money, or a motorcycle, something. But now that's not happening."
FOX 4 also consulted Robert Wade, the owner of "My Florida Eviction Service," shedding light on the ease with which individuals can establish residence on someone else's property. Wade emphasized, "There's no specific time; it can be as little as one day. They merely argue to the sheriff's department that 'Hey, I live here,' and that is enough."
Wade further highlighted that receiving mail could also be a tactic squatters use to establish residence.
Once the residence is established, the police may not be able to intervene until the eviction process is completed, showcasing the challenges faced by property owners in these circumstances.N