“It was just a labyrinth of little areas,” he said.
It appears those who lost their life in the ‘Ghost Ship Fire’ had paid ten dollars to experience something different, something creative, something mind-altering. They did not expect to meet their death. I have empathy for their families and friends. I have empathy for all Art Collectives. In 1971 I lived in one in Boston that burned down after I moved out. No one died in the fire. There were over a hundred areas that were built by artist-workers selected to do so. We had rules. Safety was a concern. Luckily we had safe exits and large halls.
It’s time We the People funded these Art Collectives. Trump said he saw no problem talking to the President of Taiwan because taxpayers give them billions of dollars to buy weapons in order to sustain their claim to be – the other China, the, Alternative China. This is to say, we spend billions to make some foreigners feel better about themselves, and their lifestyle. There will be an investigation of the fire, and, there will be a crack-down. Special laws will be made to prevent deaths in the future. Artists will be labeled ‘Parasites’ as one of our Aircraft Carriers steams to the China Seas, costing millions in fuel. A Nuclear threat will hover over the whole enterprise.
Above is a cruise ship decorated by the artist, Peter Max.
OAKLAND — Doomed partygoers trapped on the second floor of a crudely converted warehouse screamed, “Help us! Help us!” as one of the deadliest structure fires in Oakland’s history ripped through a tinderbox of makeshift living spaces and a labyrinth cluttered with art late Friday night, killing at least nine people and possibly dozens more.
Eugene just announced there will be no City Celebration this year. There might be a parade. Also, the 5th. Avenue Art Enclave may be torn down and replaced by high-rise development. I used to go to the greatest parties on earth here, thrown by the Diggers.
There is so much to report. I have been posting suggestions on our mayor’s Facebook. All the work I have done in this blog is now very important. We might be seeing the end of a era that began with the first Gathering of the Tribes in San Francisco. Bringing large bodies of BoHip people together may be in peril. The Whiteaker and Country Fair are doing well. My vision of Love Dance, and a Broadway Musical, may be a vision of a new direction. People need to be educated about what Bohemianism is. It should be here to stay. The Right only brought folks together to march them off to foreign wars, and give them a parade when they came home – if we were victorious..
The blaze broke out at an electronic music party at a Fruitvale district live-work space occupied by an arts collective, and firefighters late Saturday were combing through the burned building in search of victims — a process they say may take 48 hours and require bulldozers and cadaver dogs.
“They couldn’t see anything in front of them, anything behind them. The only reason they got out was they heard voices outside. The voices directed them to where they were going.”
The teens said they paid $10 to get into the warehouse party, which they found online, Garcia said.
The fire is likely to be the deadliest in several years in California and the most destructive in the East Bay since the great 1991 Oakland Hills fire, which killed 25 people and injured more than 100 others.
City records cited allegations of at least three code violations at the building this year. In one complaint, city inspectors said there was complaint of an illegal building on the property as well as piles of trash.
“This property is a storage [facility], but the owner turned it into a trash recycling center. The yard became a trash collection site, and the main building was [remodeled] for residential,” according to city records.
City building and safety officials said Saturday afternoon that there was an open investigation into the warehouse and that inspectors had found evidence of blight. The building was permitted for use as a warehouse, not for housing.
They said that a party or concert at the property would have required a permit, which had not been granted. They also said there was no evidence of fire sprinklers or alarms in the building.
Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents the district where the fire broke out, said neighbors have regularly complained about the building — particularly the fact that it had piles of trash and debris outside.
“We would complain to the manager that they had all that nonsense outside of his building, blocking sidewalks, blocking streets. And … he always had an attitude,” he said.
Gallo said he did not know whether people were living inside the warehouse. Asked whether the building had residential permits, he said: “Absolutely not.”
“The reality is, there are many facilities being occupied without permits,” he said. “They’re occurring on Oakland’s streets, especially in neighborhoods like mine.”
The property is one of several owned by Chor N. Ng, according to her daughter, Eva Ng, 36. She said the warehouse was leased as studio space for an art collective and not used as a dwelling.
“Nobody lived there,” she told The Times, adding, “It was an art collective.”
She said she had asked her leaseholders about the issue and had been reassured that nobody lived in the building. “They confirmed multiple times. They said sometimes some people worked through the night, but that is all,” she said.
The second floor had two exits, both wooden stairs, she said, adding that she believes the building also had smoke detectors. She was not familiar with comments by fire officials that the makeshift stairs consisted of packing crates.
Ng added that her mother felt terrible about the tragedy.
Kevin Longton, who lives at the Vulcan Lofts, less than a mile from where the fire took place, said the warehouse was well-known for holding rave-style dance parties. He went to one about a year ago, never saw any sprinklers and felt the place was an accident waiting to happen.
Inside, he said, were two floors with a huge open space on the first floor with lots of nooks and crannies. People had cordoned off loft-style sections on the first floor and decorated them with fabrics and curtains. More than a two dozen old pianos were strewn about the floor.
“There were people living there,” Longton said. “I’m sure of that.”
People who previously lived there recalled a building that lacked fire sprinklers and had a staircase partly made of wooden pallets. Partygoers recalled a rabbit warren of rooms crammed with belongings — pianos, organs, antique furniture, doors and half-finished sculptures.
“It was a tinderbox,” said Brooke Rollo, 30, who lives less than a mile from the scene and had gone to parties there.
Photos on the warehouse’s Tumblr page show a maze of rooms, with walls and dividers made from pianos, boxes, salvaged doors and other materials. Wooden rafters were adorned with hanging lanterns, holiday lights, bicycles, stereo equipment and exposed wiring.
Ben Brandrett, a mental health researcher living in San Francisco, attended a performance at the warehouse and noticed that a staircase didn’t have a banister. “I remember thinking, ‘This seems sketchy.’”
Firefighters who responded to the Friday’s three-alarm blaze described the interior as a labyrinth. And officials said organizers of the warehouse concert never obtained a permit for the event, preventing city workers from inspecting exits, fire extinguishers and other vital safety features.
Oakland police asked for descriptions of tattoos and piercings to help identify the nine bodies removed from the building Saturday as well as another two dozen or more who remain missing, including college students, artists and musicians attending a dance party upstairs.
It took about four hours to bring the blaze under control; at one point, the roof collapsed. The building had no sprinklers, Oakland fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said, and crews did not hear any smoke detectors going off when they arrived.
“We still have to do a more thorough search of the building, and we don’t know the potential number of other victims,” Reed said. No firefighters were reported injured while battling the blaze.
Kelly said emergency responders were prepared Saturday night for a “mass casualty event” that could involve “several dozen fatalities.” He also said that “several dozen” people who were initially reported missing have since been located and are safe.
The plan is to “disassemble the building piece by piece and place the debris into bins,” Kelly said. Heavy equipment could be seen and heard working on the building into Saturday evening.
Authorities were bringing in bulldozers, excavators, cadaver dogs and remote control equipment to find bodies buried beneath a collapsed second floor and roof and hidden within a clutter of pianos, camping trailers, artwork and old furniture.
“It’s very bad wreckage, twisted debris. It’s like a maze: wires, beams, wood,” Kelly said. “It’s all fallen on top of each other. There are places and crevices we can’t get in to.”
Like 9/11 in New York, few victims of the fire were taken to the hospital with injuries, he said. “People either made it out or didn’t make it out.”
Families of the missing gathered at an Alameda County Sheriff’s Department building on Saturday waiting for word. Dan Vega, whose brother Alex is missing, says the wait is unbearable.
“I have my work boots, I have gloves,” Vega said. “I just want to find him.”
Chris, a local musician who asked to use only his first name, said he was in the bathroom when the fire broke out. He walked out into a room filled with thick smoke. The lights had gone out and it was pitch black inside the warehouse space, where only a few moments earlier a group of 40 to 50 people were listening to a DJ play music and waiting for the show to start.
Immediately, people were screaming and trying to direct others to safety. With no lights, and smoke filling the warehouse, it made it difficult for people to find their footing on the somewhat irregularly shaped staircase, which Chris said appeared to have been built in three sections.
“We did that for as long as we could, but when you’re in a burning building, you’re being surrounded by a completely hostile environment,” he said. “It was kind of a free for all.”
Chris said he ran to his car to grab a flashlight and ran back into the building, crawling on his hands and knees, but he couldn’t get to the staircase or help move people to safety. The smoke, which he said hit him “like getting slapped in the face,” made it impossible for him to see or to breathe.
Firefighters started arriving as the flames grew larger and started erupting out of the side of the building.
“I felt so helpless,” he said as he watched the firefighters douse the flames.
The warehouse is one of numerous buildings in Oakland that have been illegally converted into artists collectives that have not been properly inspected, according to City Councilman Noel Gallo. Still, young hipsters looking for cheap, creative communities seek them out to survive in a city where rents are skyrocketing to accommodate an influx of highly paid tech workers.
The “Ghost Ship” was under investigation by city building inspectors just weeks ago amid reports of blight and illegal structures inside. When they knocked on the door to get inside the building Nov. 17, however, no one answered, so they left, according to city officials.
The building is owned by Chor N. Ng, of Oakland, but former residents say Derick Alemany and his wife, Micah, were raising three young children there, although they weren’t in the building when the fire broke out. The couple were the creative force behind the labyrinthine menagerie and collected monthly rent from other artists of between $300 and $600. They held dance parties with live electronic music and charged at the door to help raise money for rent.
In a Facebook post Saturday that was excoriated by readers, Alemany wrote, “Everything I worked so hard for is gone. Blessed that my children and Micah were at a hotel safe and sound. … it’s as if I have awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope … to be standing now in poverty of self-worth.”
Alemany had advertised on Facebook and Craigslist looking for renters seeking “immediate change and loving revolution,” who enjoyed “poetics, dramatics, film, tantric kitten juggling and nude traffic directing.” He described it as 10,000 square feet of vintage redwood and antique steel “styled beyond compare.”
His 1951 purple Plymouth remained parked Saturday in front of the building that burned so hot, the “Ghost Ship” letters painted across the front had all but melted away.
“They are ex-Burning Man people and had their kids in the place — three kids running around with no shoes,” said DeL Lee, 34, who lived there for three months two years ago. “It was nuts.”
He described the place as a filthy firetrap, with frequent power outages, overloaded outlets, sparks and the smell of burning wire. A camping stove with butane tanks served as the kitchen, and a hole had been chiseled through the concrete wall to access the bathroom at the adjoining automotive repair shop next door.
The staircase, which had two switchbacks to get to the second floor, was built of pallets, plywood and footholds — like a ship’s gangplank — and was like “climbing a fort” to get up and down, say people who had visited the building.
Pianos and old couches doubled as room dividers. Pallets covered with shingles and elaborate trim formed sculptural walls. Often, Lee said, the place was filled with the sounds of sawing and hammering as Alemany continued to build.
“They’d be up all night, til 10 a.m., playing on the piano, banging on the floor, singing — it was crazy,” Lee said.
On Saturday, a candlelight vigil was held at Chapel of the Chimes. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office also became a painful gathering place of sobs and embraces.
Kimberly Gregory, of South San Francisco, said she was watching the news about the fire, thinking how sad it was, when she got a call from her daughter’s friend asking if Michela, a student at San Francisco State, was safe.
“What do you mean?” Gregory asked. She and her husband raced to Oakland, where they were met by Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Joel Shanahan, the electronic musician who performed as Golden Donna at the Ghost Ship when the fire broke out, confirmed on Facebook that he was safe. “But like many people he is heartbroken and has several friends among the missing,” a post on his Facebook page read.
But Micah Danemayor, who was performing at the warehouse Friday, remains among the missing, along with his girlfriend. Karen Tate, who is close to the Danemayor family, fears they are both dead.
“His passion was the performances. He made his life work so he could do that,” Tate said. “They moved in together, and the next day they perished together. It’s so tragic.”
Staff writers Harry Harris, Sam Richards, Malaika Fraley and Katrina Cameron contributed to this story.