Tuesday, June 23, 1992 | 6 a.m.
As flames and smoke billowed out of a Las Vegas home, James Hanson risked his own life to save neighbor's dog by breaking through the front door to find Samson, a 9-year-old mutt, couched in a corner.
"He was really scared," the 22-year-old Hanson said following Monday afternoon's fire. "He didn't want to come out. I had to drag him out."
The fire all but destroyed the 130 Chicago Ave. home, located in a rundown section of Las Vegas known as the Naked City.
Las Vegas Fire Department arson investigators arrested a suspect in connection with the fire who allegedly threatened his former friend, and Samson's owner shortly before the blaze was discovered.
Harvey Sprankle, a 59-year-old homeless man, was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on one count of felony first-degree arson.
Bail was set at $3000. Neighborhood children spoted Sprankle a block away from the burnt home just after the fire was put put.
Arson investigators spent at least an hour questioning Sprankle and, in between taking swigs from an extra large bottle of beer, he denied setting fire to the house.
But Samson's owner, Nicole "Tracy" Smith, 46, said Sprankle called her earlier in the day and threatened to damage her home.
Smith said Sprankle was angry with her because she had thrown him out of her home two or three months ago. She said she had taken pity on man and tried to take care of him, "but all he wanted to do is drink," she said.
Hanson told arson investigators he saw Sprankle leaving the house about 10 or 15 minutes before he heard Samosn barking, which led to his discovery of the fire. No one else was inside Smith's section of the house when the fire broke out.
Hanson also lives in another section of the houes, which is separated into two apartments. In addition to Smith and Hanson, three other people were left homeless because of the fire. But they all said they would probably stay with friends.
All but Smith expressed anger that they were left without a home.
Smith said all she was concerned about was her dog.
"The most important thing in m life is Samson; he's all I've had for years," Smith said as she sat behind her burnt-out home hugging the lucky pooch. "He doesn't steal the rent money, he doesn't cheat on me and he doesn't beat me."