The man who heads the “Ghost Ship” artists collective, where the deadly Oakland fire broke out late Friday night, is facing a backlash over an insensitive Facebook post in which he lamented over losing “everything [he] worked so hard for,” as 24 people have been confirmed dead and at least two dozen more are still missing.
At 1:33 a.m. on Saturday morning, Derek Ion — known by his real name, Derick Alemany — wrote “Confirmed. 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.”
His post quickly drew criticism from Facebook users who were brooding over the fact that he seemed to have placed greater value over his material possessions than the lives of those who died tragically.
One user seemed perplexed as to how a “community based on love” could produce such “cold hearted people.”
According to several news outlets, online records listed the building’s owner as Nar Siu Chor.
Dozens of partygoers were trapped inside the converted and structurally unsound warehouse in the 1300 block of Oakland’s 31st Avenue on Friday night after a blaze broke out around 11:30 p.m. According to the East Bay Times, Oakland fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said firefighters had trouble battling the blaze because the space “was filled end-to-end with furniture, what-not, collections … it was like a maze almost.”
The Associated Press reported that the death toll had risen to 24 as of Sunday, and that officials expect that number to climb. The search for missing bodies is expected to continue for at least another 48 hours.
A team of structural engineers had to cut a hole into the side of the building in order to gain access to the interior of what many are calling a logistical nightmare.
The East Bay Times notes that just three weeks before Friday’s deadly blaze, city building inspectors had launched an investigation into “illegal structures” built inside the converted warehouse. However, officials had reportedly been unable to gain access during an inspection visit, and failed to follow up.
The building, a concrete warehouse in the Oakland flats where artists lived and worked, had no sprinklers or fire alarms, and the only known exit was an unstable makeshift staircase built out of wooden pallets.
The area has become increasingly unaffordable as a result of creeping gentrification in the Bay Area. Friday’s fire is partly a testament to the Bay Area’s growing housing crisis, which has prompted many to share living quarters, much like many of those who perished in the flames.
“They should have locked it up,” Dan Vega, an Oakley mechanic whose 22-year-old brother Alex Vega is still missing, told the East Bay Times. “I don’t think it’s fair that my brother had to lose his life because the city didn’t know what to do.”
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