Oakland Arts Community Reels From Warehouse Fire: 'This Is a Nightmare'
publish date: 2016-12-05
The tight-knit arts community in the city of Oakland, Calif. is reeling from the three-alarm fire that broke out at a warehouse party on Friday and has so far claimed the lives of 36 people, with more casualties expected.
"This is the most deadly fire in Oakland's fire history that I'm aware of,” said Battalion Chief of Fire at City of Oakland Melinda Drayton. It’s expected to become one of the deadliest structure fires in the state, and deadliest in the U.S. in recent history, with comparisons being drawn to a 2003 nightclub fire in Warwick, R.I., that left 100 people dead.
The converted warehouse known as the Ghost Ship, located in the city's Fruitvale district, had a history of code violations and did not have permits for public events or residential living, though both took place on its premises.
Friday night's electronic-music event, headlined by 100% Silk label artist Golden Donna as part of his West Coast tour, had approximately 60 people in attendance when the fire broke out at around 11:00 or 11:15 p.m., witnesses told news outlets. Though firefighters arrived within three minutes, according to Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly, they were unable to gain access to the inside of the two-story structure. Dozens of people were trapped inside. “Floors have collapsed on top of floors. The roof collapsed,” Kelly said at a press conference. Crews worked through the weekend removing debris “bucket by bucket” with 60 percent of the site excavated as of Sunday evening.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, although the building had been investigated for safety violations and had an inadequate electrical system, witnesses told news outlets. At a press conference on Sunday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that the Alameda County District Attorney Office has been brought into the case and is working with the local law enforcement to determine whether to formally move forward with a criminal investigation.