ATF: Overloaded Electrical Wires May Have Led to Deadly Oakland Fire

Oakland fire warehouse (Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty)
Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) said Tuesday that there is “no final determination” in the Oakland  fire that took 36 lives at the “Ghost Ship” warehouse on the night of December 2, but noted that overloaded electrical lines and wiring were “part of the analysis” authorities are looking at in order to determine the origin of the deadly flames.

“We have concluded the on-scene investigation,” Special Agent in Charge Jill Snyder said during a live news conference in Oakland. However, the “investigation is ongoing.” Snyder said that while “no final determination has been made as to the exact cause of the fire … to clear up the concern over the determination being electrical, the electrical system is part of the analysis.”

In addition to questionable electrical hookups, the illegally-converted warehouse included artists using butane torches and exposed wood throughout.

The ATF has taken a leading tole in assisting that Oakland Fire Department in the investigation. Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed also noted that their thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims, whose ages ranged between 17 to 61 years of age.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s office now leads the criminal investigation surrounding the blaze. District Attorney

The deadly blaze took place during an electronic dance party,, one of many events Ghost Ship informal leader Derick Ion Almena staged in order to help pay for rent. Almena did not own the warehouse, but was leasing out the space from Bay Area landlord Chor Ng, 62. The warehouse was illegally converted into living quarters for the artists’ collective.

In the increasingly unaffordable Bay Area, the Ghost Ship — and several other similarly converted warehouses in the region — provided a more affordable, albeit non-traditional, living accommodation for artists who have opted to live in unsafe and illegal buildings. Rent at the Ghost Ship was between $300-$3,500 a month.

The names of those who perished are: Cash Askew, 22; Em Bohlka, 33; David Cline, 24; Micah Danemayer, 28; Billy Dixon, 35; Chelsea Dolan, 33; Riley (aka Feral Pines) Fritz, 29; Alex Ghassan, 35; Nick Gomez-Hall, 25; Michela Gregory, 20; Sara Hoda, 30; Travis Hough, 35; Johnny Igaz, 34; Ara Jo, 29; Donna Kellogg, 32; Amanda Kershaw, 34; Edmond Lapine, 34; Griffin Madden, 23; Jason McCarty, 35; Draven McGill, 17; Jennifer Morris, 21; Vanessa Plotkin, 21; Wolfgang Renner, 61; Hannah Ruax, 32; Benjamin Runnels, 32; Nicole Siegrist, 29; Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, 31; Alex Vega, 22; Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32; Jennifer Mendiola, 35 ;Joseph Matlock, 36; Barrett Clark, 35; Michele Sylvan, 37; Nicholas Walrath, 31; Jonathan Bernbaum, 34; Peter Wadsworth, 38.


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