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Deadly Oakland Fire Reveals Agency Failures

Updated on December 5, 2016
The deadly blaze
The deadly blaze
Inside before the fire
Inside before the fire
The Aftermath
The Aftermath

The deadly fire, killing at least 36 or more, in Oakland, CA., in a warehouse has exposed that governmental agencies simply failed to their jobs. The fire raced through a warehouse in a furnace of a blaze during a party on the second floor that collapsed onto those occupants living on the first floor. It remains a horrific story as remains have been so charred that DNA is required to identify individuals.

It is a story of how county and city agencies failed to follow-up on reports, looked the other way, and were negligent in doing their job. Perhaps, the D.A. should also be looking into this as the story unfolds.

The smoking gun is a former woman who lived in the warehouse from 2014-15 because housing is hard to find and very expensive. Interviewed on CNN, she was renting a space for her RV that was parked inside the warehouse for $700 a month, paid to a "artist colony manager" who ran the warehouse as a housing rental with up to 20 residents living there. The man was not the owner, but was renting the place from the owner and then subletting the inside without the knowledge of the owner. When the owner did inspect it, the residents were told to vanish so that the "artist colony" was deceptive. The woman indicated that during the year she lived there, at least two small fires had happened due to faulty and illegal hookups to PGE utility, meaning they were getting free electricity. Their transformer once exploded. There was only one barely functional bathroom for the 20 residents and the heat within the warehouse also failed many times. The woman complained to the police and housing authorities at least three times about the situation. One time, the warehouse manager pulled a gun on her and police arrived on the scene. The man was not arrested but the police did enter the warehouse and could see potential building code violations etc. Despite at least three complaints to Oakland's housing department due to the obvious code violations to her, no response occurred. There was never an inspection by city officials. The woman indicated that Child Protective Services also had visited the site a few times because younger than teens were living there to inspect living conditions. Yet, CPS, seemed to have not reported anything, perhaps because whenever the owner, police, etc., arrived, the renters living there were not there. There was never a surprise spot inspection on the warehouse. Had there been, the truth inside would have been discovered.

The woman was not at all surprised that a fire broke out. Most likely, the cause will be an illegal connection to PGE lines causing a transformer explosion during the party which was consuming large amounts of electricity. When CNN interviewed a member of the Oakland city council who lived only two blocks away from the site, he admitted that he and others knew that people were living in the warehouse that was violating city codes for it was not zoned for that. So, a member on the city council knew the warehouse was being used as a residence and looked the other way. Did nothing. Did not care enough to even have the warehouse inspected in the past two years. WOW.

As I said, will the D.A. be objective enough to turn its investigation to internal city and county negligence that could have prevented this loss of life? You have a member of the city council admitting it was "common knowledge" people were living there. You have an eyewitness who did live there citing how police and CPS were onsite, inside, many times during her one year residence there. You have her complaining to housing authorities about the conditions inside several times.

This is a classic case of both negligence and willful negligence causing loss of life. This seems to be a wrongful death case and a total failure of county and city agencies in performing their duties to protect the public. It was an accident waiting to happen that was allowed to happen by agency failures. Tragic.


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