The fire is a heartbreaking tragedy because so many have perished but even more so because it could have – and should have – been prevented. The warehouse – known in the community as Oakland Ghost Ship – was illegally converted into artists collective (according to reports, some tenants used it as housing as well), meaning the structure didn’t meet the required building and safety standards. The warehouse was under active investigation for safety violations when the fire erupted.
The building was full of flammable materials: artwork, furniture, wood, mannequins, artists’ supplies and such. After the fire, Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said that most victims were found on the second floor. The building didn’t have a fire escape route, no sprinklers and no smog alarms. According to firefighters, the only connection between the first and second floor was an improvised stairway made of wooden pallets.
The fire started on Friday 12/02/16 during an evening concert and dance party. It is estimated that about 100 people (20 to 30 years old) were in the warehouse. Nine people are confirmed dead. About two dozens are still missing. It is possible that as many as 40 may have died in the fire.
Families and friends of the unidentified yet victims and the many missing have many urgent questions. The recovery effort is hindered by the instability of the burned building.
UPDATE: As of now 36 people are confirmed dead in the Oakland Ghost Ship fire. All of the victims are young (one was only 17!), most are artists, all had promising futures ahead of them, their families and friends are at a loss. The authorities are asking that families preserve the missing persons’ DNA which can be retrieved from a toothbrush or hair brush. The DNA may be needed to identify victims. Criminal charges may be filed in this case.