Ghost Ship Fire Investigation Completed, No Record of Inspections

Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Flowers, pictures, signs and candles, are placed at the scene of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif.

Almost two weeks after a devastating fire that killed 36 people, Oakland's Fire Department has completed its investigation into the Ghost Ship space and found that a faulty electrical system was likely the cause, and that there were no records of the department ever inspecting the ramshackle property.

The San Francisco Examiner reported that Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed told reporters on Tuesday (Dec. 13) that a thorough review of the Department's records back to 2004 found no evidence of any inspections of the warehouse, which hosted unlicensed dance parties and housed artists in illegal residential spaces in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood

Despite a probe lasting nearly two weeks, ATF Special Agent Jill Snyder said on Tuesday that there was still no conclusive cause of the inferno that spread quickly on the building's first floor as more than 100 partygoers attended a dance party on the second floor. "The electrical system is part of the analysis," Snyder said. "It's part of what we're looking at. The investigation is still ongoing. There has been no final determination of the cause." Federal officials said over the weekend that the ATF had completed their probe.

Deloach Reed said that by law the department wasn't required to inspect the property and would only have done so if it got wind that there was an operational business in the space, or that people were living there. The only report the fire department found was a service call to put out a small fire in a vacant lot next door to the Ghost Ship, and a visit by inspectors to the auto body shop next door, neither of which spurred action at the warehouse. The Los Angeles Times reported that Oakland Fire Station No. 13 was just 500 feet from the site of the Dec. 2 fire.

The Examiner noted that when asked about reports that some responding firefighters were aware the warehouse was a hazard, Deloach Reed said those firefighters were only interviewed about that subject the day before and that she didn't have any information on their answers. City records indicate that Oakland's planning and building department had received several complaints about trash piling up in the vacant lot next door to the warehouse and on the sidewalk, and that at one point an inspector went there to investigate reports of an illegal structure inside the building but was unable to get access to the interior.

According to the Times, officials said last week that building code enforcement inspectors had not been in the 10,000 square-foot warehouse in at least 30 years despite nearly two dozen building code complaints and other city actions. Neighbors and former residents told the paper that they'd contacted the city numerous times about trash and debris piled up outside the warehouse and other concerns about unsafe conditions inside; a source in city government told the Times last week that the warehouse's address was not in the Fire Department's database of buildings requiring inspections. 

In a story on the final hours of the structure, the East Bay Times reported that the building had no sprinklers or smoke alarms.


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