Property owner believes fire could have been 'prevented' in Southeast Austin

The Austin Fire Department is investigating a fire that burned two homes and a shed in Southeast Austin Tuesday morning. 

The fire began around 7:15 a.m. inside a shed on Ponca Street. It spread to a home on the property and a neighboring home on Thrasher Lane. The fire resulted in $427,500 of damage, according to the Austin Fire Department. 

Greg McDaniel owns the Ponca Street property. He says it has been vacant for approximately one month. 

On Friday, McDaniel visited the home and noticed the lockbox the real estate company placed on the door had been pushed in. When he returned Saturday, he says he noticed a cord running from his neighbors home to the property. He believes squatters were using it to steal electricity and notified his neighbor.

On Sunday around 11 p.m., his neighbor called and told him "he had cut the cord and someone had put nails in his tires." 

McDaniel, who lives in San Marcos, says he contacted the Austin Police Department minutes later. He asked them to check his property for squatters after being placed on hold. 

"The police department 20 minutes later answered the phone and told me they did not have the manpower to send an officer to the house to look for it. The homeowner that had nails put into his tires could call and file a report if he so desired," he said.

The fire department has not released a cause for the fire, but officials say they are aware people were squatting on the property. 

FOX 7 Austin has contacted the Austin Police Department for comment.