Botched Ghost Ship Inspection Demonstrates Oakland's Negligence

Two weeks after a devastating fire that killed 36 people, Oakland's Fire Department completed its investigation into the Ghost Ship space and found that a faulty electrical system was likely the cause, and that there were no records of the department ever inspecting the property.

The San Francisco Examiner reported that Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed told reporters on Tuesday (Dec. 13) that a thorough review of the Department's records back to 2004 found no evidence of any inspections of the warehouse, which hosted unlicensed dance parties and housed artists in illegal residential spaces in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood.

Now, it has come to light that the city of Oakland apparently had started – and then unceremoniously dropped – an investigation into the Ghost Ship warehouse just weeks before the tragic fire killed 36 people.

According to the Mercury News, Oakland building inspectors started investigating “illegal” structures built inside the Ghost Ship warehouse three weeks prior to the fire. But when inspectors showed up at the door, they couldn’t get inside.

They turned around and left, and it appears they never followed up.

Apparently, the city had cited the building’s owner on November 13 for a massive buildup of garbage in the lot next door. When inspectors showed up four days later and knocked on the door, they couldn’t get in. The reason for that remains unclear – it may just be that no one was there to answer the door.

It seems that the system of fire investigation completely broke down. The building never was inspected!

Finally when the City could no longer turn its back on a building that was obviously a death trap, investigators did knock on the door… and left. The City knew of the danger and walked away from it.

Where was their urgency? Where was their protocol? Whatever happened here was a clear lapse, and the city knows it. In the wake of the fire, Oakland has been on an inspection rampage, desperate to cite and document every building that could be the next Ghost Ship, and leaving artists with nowhere else to go.

These issues are complex, and they can’t be solved overnight. In the wake of tragedies such as this, we can take some solace in the idea that the it will cause policy to change, and I am confident that this fire was the wake up call the city needed. Still, what’s done is done, and the city should be held accountable.

Families of the Ghost Ship fire victims only have six months from the date of the fire to file a wrongful death claim against the city of Oakland, and time is quickly running out. Don’t let Oakland’s clear negligence in this matter go unanswered.
Categories: Wrongful Death