Electronic Music Alliance Pushes Safety Tips in Wake of Oakland Tragedy; Baltimore DIY Space Shut Down

Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Mourners hug next to flowers near the site of the warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif. on  Dec. 4, 2016. 

The Electronic Music Alliance, a network of dance music leaders, artists, and fans, has re-released a guide for organizing safe events in the wake of the Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 partygoers on Friday night. EMA said in a blog post on Tuesday that the tips are not intended to be a set of standards, but "merely concepts" for organizers to keep in mind when planning small or medium-sized events or festivals.

The guide (found here) covers 10 topics, including water availability, ensuring that there is a liaison on-hand to interact with emergency responders, providing a "cool down" area for overheated revelers and creating open pathways and roads to avoid bottlenecks and blockage for exiting and EMS vehicles. The guide also reminds organizers about providing adequate shade and ventilation, working with local authorities on medical transportation, planning ahead for clean-up, and establishing a chain of command in case of a disaster.

According to CW6 San Diego, several EMA members may have died in the Oakland fire, at a warehouse-turned-art commune known as Ghost Ship. "Every one of the lives that was lost is going to be a big loss for everyone, to the community and their families," commented EMA founding member Tomas Serrano.

Profiles emerging of several victims include many artists, including Cash Askew of Bay Area dream-pop band Them Are US Too, electronic musicians Brandon “Chase” Wittenaur, bassist Riley Fritz, NYC-area filmmaker Alex Ghassan, local musician Nick Gomez-Hall, and Travis Hough of electronic band Ghost of Lightning, which just released an album. Chelsea Faith Dolan (Cherushii), an electronic artist signed to the 100% Silk label, was among the victims. Another 100% Silk artist, Johnny Igaz (Nackt), is still unaccounted for. Both were on the bill for Friday night's event.

The 4,000-square-foot building was zoned as a warehouse, but city officials believe it housed a number of living spaces to go along with the areas used for its parties. Ghost Ship manager Derick Almena appeared on the Today show on Tuesday to apologize. "I'm only here to say one thing: I'm incredibly sorry and that everything that I did was to make this a stronger and more beautiful community and to bring people together," he said.

The Oakland warehouse fire could lead to a wider crackdown on other DIY spaces across the country. Though officials aren't saying it is tied to the Ghost Ship tragedy, an artist space in Baltimore called The Bell Foundry was shut down just days later following what a fire department rep called "numerous safety violations as well as deplorable conditions." A GoFundMe to help relocate Bell Foundry evictees has already raised more than its target.


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