It was known as the “Ghost Ship.” It served as a showcase for a cluster of artist studios, illegal living quarters and the occasional underground dance party. Now, the shell of the warehouse in Oakland, CA is the site of one of the deadliest fires in recent U.S. history, and a stark reminder of why it is so critical that property owners abide by fire and safety codes.
Authorities report 36 people died at the venue, and prosecutors were exploring whether murder charges might be filed once the investigation is completed. It’s not clear exactly how the blaze started, but it’s possible that culpable negligence could lead to a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Those familiar with the space called it “a death trap,” cluttered with piled wood, furniture, haphazard electrical cords and just two exits. Before the fire, the property manager had reportedly been confronted several times by neighbors regarding trash in the street and on the sidewalk. He was reportedly resistant to inspectors responding to complaints or pressing him to comply with building codes. In a television interview after the fire, he spoke to the families of those lost, saying, “I surrender everything.”
The property owners – a mother and daughter – said they were not aware of the space being used as a dwelling. The family offered their condolences, but that is of little solace to those struggling with enormous grief right now – especially when there is so much evidence these deaths didn’t have to happen. They shouldn’t have happened. It will likely be asserted that but for the negligence of those responsible to keep this property safe, these deaths almost certainly wouldn’t have happened. Continue reading