Second Massive Oakland Fire in Four Months Claims 4 Lives

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Less than four months after the devastating “Ghost Ship” blaze, another Oakland building fire has claimed the lives of four people.

The fire began around 5:40 a.m on Monday at 2551 San Pablo Ave.

“People should not be dying like that. It’s like Ghost Ship all over again,” Oakland resident ToNiya Scott-Smith, who lives behind the ravaged building, told the East Bay Times.

On December 2, 36 people perished in an illegally-converted warehouse fire. A single, unstable staircase made from wooden pallets was the sole way out of the deadly blaze.

According to the Easy Bay Times, fire inspectors had found numerous safety code violations in the building that went up in flames on Monday morning. Their last visit to the building was in February, but they were unable to enter because the building’s owner, Keith Kim, was not present and they were unable to reach him.

The three-story building housed low-income tenants and was reportedly operated by nonprofits. Over 80 people, including many children, lived there. Some of the residents had been served with eviction notices.

Unfortunately, the building was not equipped with sprinklers, fire extinguishers and fire alarms did not go off. Firefighters reportedly rescued 15 people. Four individuals were hospitalized with smoke inhalation; two of them were children.

The East Bay Times notes: “When that inspector finally got behind the locked doors on Friday, he documented 11 severe fire hazards, including extension cords being used instead of wall outlets. He wrote that fire extinguishers, emergency lighting and marked exits must be maintained and provided throughout the building, and smoke detectors in each unit.”

In an interview with the Washington Post, attorney James Cook said, “The place was disgusting. The most deplorable living conditions you could imagine. Rats, roaches, you name it.”

The December “Ghost Ship” fire sparked numerous investigations and an influx of eviction notices throughout West Oakland and California. The DIY (do it yourself) artists’ community pushed back against attempts to close down the unsafe warehouse spaces where many of them live.

“[T]here’ a lot to be said for us getting loud and getting in people’s faces,” Randy Randall of the punk music group No Age said during a panel discussion on the deadly December fire last year. “I’ve got a sinking feeling it’s only going to get worse, so we just have to go harder and bigger.”

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