Billie Joe Armstrong & Patti Smith Address Victims of Oakland Fire; Investigators Zero In on Possible Cause

Oakland Warehouse Fire Memorial
Nick Otto/AFP/Getty Images

Balloons are left at a makeshift memorial on Dec. 4, 2016 for the victims a warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif.

The devastating fire that killed 36 at the Ghost Ship warehouse space in Oakland, California, on Friday took place in the kind of urban squat that East Bay resident Billie Joe Armstrong knows all too well. The Green Day singer took to Instagram on Tuesday to recall his days living in similar conditions and offer his prayers for the victims.

"It's been many years since I've lived in warehouses and communal spaces like Ghost Ship," Armstrong wrote. "Those were some of the best and most fulfilling times in my life. Living with other weirdos, artists, activists, and musicians.. spaces like this allow the strange ones to thrive and be the people that normal society rejects." The singer goes on to talk about the inspiration he took from those times and offer a tribute to the dead.

"This tragedy hits close to all of our hearts," he wrote. "Please do what you can to help heal this intense loss."

 

On Monday night in New York, Patti Smith also sent her prayers to the victims during a performance of "Peaceable Kingdom" at the Democracy Now! 20th anniversary party, explaining that she originally wrote it for activist Rachel Corrie, who died during a peacekeeping mission in the Gaza Strip, but was rededicating it to the victims of the fire. "We also would like to remember all the young people who lost their lives in the Oakland fire," she said. "And when you look at the pictures of them, all of them brimming with such hope, we need our young people. We pin our faith on them. They are going to make the most revolutionary changes in human history. They will continue to build peace movements, to protect our environment. And so we sing this little song for them."

The death toll in the fire remains at 36, with 26 families notified so far and nine bodies "tentatively identified" by authorities so far and one still unidentified, according to a Fox News report. Officials announced Tuesday that they are zeroing in on kitchen appliances as the potential cause of the fire in the space that was not licensed to host such dance parties. Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern told The San Francisco Chronicle that they believe the fire may have started in a rear part of the building that contained a number of appliances.

“On that back wall, there was a 45-degree angle burn, and they need to look at that area very carefully,” Ahern told the paper on Tuesday. “And in that area is a toaster, a small refrigerator, and slightly larger refrigerator, small and about four feet high, like one from the 1950s. We’re not saying a refrigerator is the cause, we’re just saying that’s the area where the ATF is looking.”

Work continues on the site, with 90 percent of the warehouse searched as of Tuesday afternoon, with the remaining 10 percent scheduled for completion by early Wednesday morning (Dec. 7). Dance music prides itself on being a caring and supportive community, and many artists have used their position to send heartfelt messages or offer help in the wake of the deadly warehouse fire; those who are interested in donating can give at youcaring.com.

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