The devastating fire that caused the deaths of at least 36 people in Oakland on Friday, December 2 could have been prevented, according to public officials. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office has launched an investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.
According to witnesses, the fire started around midnight and quickly consumed most of the building, known as the Ghost Ship. Police believe that nearly 200 people may have been in the building at the time of the fire. A Facebook page indicated that an electronic music act, Golden Donna, was scheduled to perform at the Ghost Ship Friday night and that 192 people had planned to come to the show.
According to residents, the Ghost Ship was the brainchild of Derick Almena and his wife, Micah Allison, who ran an artist’s collective, leasing living and studio space for a small fee. It is believed that 20-25 artists lived in the old warehouse.
Public records show that a number of complaints had been filed against the building’s owner, Chor N. Ng, as recently as last month. Authorities say the building permits allow use only as a warehouse, and do not include either living or entertainment space. The building had no fire alarms or sprinkler system and had only two exits. Furthermore, the access to and from the entertainment space, on the second floor, was a makeshift stairway constructed of old wooden pallets. Oakland officials say no one had obtained a permit for the Golden Donna show, either.
A former resident told reporters that Almena had encouraged artists to cover up the fact that they were actually living in the warehouse. She said, however, that police came by weekly and knew that people were living there. City Councilman Noel Gallo, who lives a block from the Ghost Ship, said he knew that people were living there.
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