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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.

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