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Investigations Continue into the Cause of Deadly Warehouse Fire in Oakland

Posted on in Catastrophic Injuries

This past weekend, the Bay Area—along with the rest of the country—was horrified to learn that an apparent electrical fire in a warehouse in Oakland claimed the lives of 36 people.

The fire occurred late Friday night in a building known locally as the “Ghost Ship” which served as a hub for artists and musicians and provided studio and performance spaces. At the time of the deadly fire, a dance party was underway in the building with reportedly more than 100 people in attendance. In the wake of the tragedy, local officials have been working to determine the cause of the blaze and have begun looking at public records about the building, which has only raised more questions about whether the loss of life could have or should have been prevented.

Possible Unapproved Building Use

Earlier this week, the city of Oakland released municipal records concerning the building showing that the structure’s most recent permitted use was as a warehouse. The records also show that the city had received multiple complaints about the building, specifically regarding unpermitted construction conducted inside the warehouse. Reports indicate that the warehouse was serving as a commune of sorts with a number of individuals living in near-destitution inside the building. Other complaints made reference to dangerous conditions and blight, as well as excess trash and debris that had been piling up in and around the structure.

City officials say that a local building inspector was sent to investigate the complaints last month. The inspector verified the blighted exterior appearance of the structure but was not able to access the interior to address the unpermitted construction and residential use claims. Officials have also expressed concern that Friday night’s party required a permit—one that was not obtained.

Who Is Responsible?

As the investigation into the blaze continues, speculation has emerged that suggests the fire may have started with a refrigerator in the unit. There is no indication of arson.

However the fire may have started, the question that now faces three dozen families is that of who should be held responsible. Should the city of Oakland have done more to prevent the tragedy, perhaps by condemning the building sooner and clearing it of its occupants? Or, are those who ran the Ghost Ship at fault for dodging inspections and failing to keep the structure in compliance with city codes and zoning regulations? Reports indicate that the warehouse was just one of many such structures that have been unofficially claimed by artists and low-income individuals. Hopefully, the magnitude of this tragedy will promote better awareness of the dangers within the community and will prompt city officials and building owners alike to take more preventive action in the future.

Legal Guidance for a Wrongful Death Claim

While three dozen families now struggle to deal with the sudden loss of loved ones, they are not alone. Preventable deaths occur every day and although nothing can change the past or bring back a loved one, grieving family members have legal options for seeking compensation. If you have lost a spouse or a child in a preventable accident due to another party’s negligence or actions, you may be able to file a wrongful death action against the liable party. To learn more about your legal options, contact an experienced wrongful death attorney in San Jose. Call 408-246-5500 for a free consultation at Jachimowicz Law Group today.











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