Girardi | Keese

Deadliest Fire in Oakland's History

"After 15 seconds, the power went out, and another 30 seconds later it was completely engulfed. It went so fast."

  • Survivor's quote

UPDATE: On Dec. 8, TIME reported the Ghost Ship as "missing" from the city's fire-inspection lists, making it hard to know when the warehouse was last inspected - if ever - for fire hazards.

burning candle.jpg

In less than a minute or so, roughly 100 people were caught in a blaze that caused at least 36 deaths in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, in the early morning hours of Dec. 3, 2016. The fire took place at a show in the Ghost Ship Warehouse.

In the days to follow, there will undoubtedly be those who try to blame the partygoers, artists, and fans of electronic music. 

The investigation is not yet complete, but like the Berkeley balcony collapse in the summer of 2015, the likely cause of many of these deaths was from structure and premises defects, not those who came for the party and to see and hear the performers.

In Berkeley, investigators found a major problem with the balcony's original construction. In Oakland, early reports have revealed that the Ghost Ship suffered from building code violations that evidently went ignored, including a staircase that wasn't a staircase at all, but a makeshift one built of wood pallets.

Other code violations:

In addition to the makeshift pallet staircase, the Ghost Ship did not have fire sprinklers and had just two exits. The Ghost Ship was permitted only for actual "warehouse" use, not parties and especially not for live-in use. According to news reports, the Ghost Ship was used as a home for young artists.

Investigators have not yet uncovered the source of the blaze, but one thing is clear. The blaze spread quickly, and ultimately engulfed the Ghost Ship, leading to the collapse of both the roof and the second floor.

Building codes matter.

From Berkeley to Oakland, the failure here is to ensure safety. This IS precisely why building codes must be enforced and violations must be fixed. The deaths and injuries of innocent victims cannot be disregarded. When building codes aren't ignored, there are no accidents.

In the weeks to follow, consider calling Girardi | Keese for legal advice.

As family members grieve and survivors are hospitalized, it can all seem too much. When the time is right, consider Girardi | Keese. We are in the business of holding people accountable for negligence. That is what we do.

This includes failure to fix building code violations.

Since 1965, Tom Girardi and his team have amassed more than $10 billion in verdicts and settlements for injured and grieving clients.

Money can't erase what happened, but the legal system can hold wrongdoers accountable and ensure that this never happens again. We strive to keep the places in which we live, socialize, and work safer for everyone.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

DISCLAIMER: Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result. Any testimonials and endorsements at this site do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter or potential legal matter.


The Soto Verdict

Girardi | Keese attorneys have won a $2.3M verdict for a Long Beach resident run over by a Parks & Rec truck. Read more here.

The Madero Verdict

Attorney Christopher T. Aumais persuaded a San Bernardino County jury to deliver an  exceptionally high verdict in an area known for low jury awards.

A Champion of Justice

Partner Amy Fisch Solomon was a Champion of Justice in 2015, proving that success in law isn't just about the size of your verdict or settlement.

Own a VW Diesel?

Read about VW's emissions scandal and 
our class action against the automaker.


Learn About Our Referral Network Read More

Our Attorneys

Meet our award-winning team Read More


The true measure of a lawyer isn’t the awards, but what the awards say about the lawyer: dedication and commitment to the client.

Super Lawyers Distinguished AV | Lexis Nexis | Martindale-Hubbell | Peer Review Rated For Ethical Standards and Legal Ability American Association For Justice Consumer Attorneys Association Of Los Angeles Consumer Attorneys California Supreme Court Icon 7 Icon Best Lawyers | Best Law Firms 2014 | U.S. News American Board of Trial Advocates Law Dragon America's Top 100 Attorneys | Lifetime Achievement Martindale-Hubbell | AV Preeminent | Peer Review Rated For Highest Level of Professional Excellence | 2017