Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland

Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland

A dance party in Oakland turned deadly on the evening of December 2, 2016, when a fire suddenly broke out. The run-down warehouse – known as the Ghost Ship – collapsed under the flames, which rapidly spread. By the time the attendees upstairs noticed the fire, they were trapped on the second floor.

There was no permit in place to hold the dance party that night, nor was there one to renovate the inside of the warehouse, which was to be used for commercial purposes only. The warehouse housed around 20-25 residents – mostly artists – who paid as much as $1,500 a month to live there.

Three weeks prior to the fire, investigators were called to the lot next door to the warehouse due to complaints about blight. Inspectors could not enter the warehouse, but the building’s owner was issued a citation for the hazardous trash surrounding the building. The two-story building has not been inspected in 30 years, even though neighbors complained numerous times about garbage and graffiti on the warehouse lot and site.

Bay Area Fire Attorney, Jeffrey Nadrich, noted at the time, that the dangerous living conditions at the Ghost Ship Warehouse facility were “unconscionable.”  The interior of the building violated many city ordinances and created an unreasonably dangerous living situation. The electrical work was not up to code and had exposed wires. Tenants had previously complained about electrical cords sparking fires, but the leaseholder did nothing to remedy the situation.  There were also no smoke alarms in the building and insufficient emergency exits. Neither of the two available stairwells led to an exit.

Because the fire involved fatalities, investigators had the challenging task of identifying bodies while also preserving a crime scene.  Prior to the recent North Bay fires in October 2017, the Ghost Ship fire was the deadliest fire in the United States since 2003.

Categories: Law

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