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Oakland ‘Ghost Ship’ fire shakes art community


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Firefighters at the scene of the Ghost Ship fire search for victims in the morning following the tragedy.

Mona Murhamer, Staff Writer

The Ghost Ship has sunk.

At least 36 were pronounced dead on Friday, Dec. 2 when an Oakland warehouse, named the “Ghost Ship” by residents and workers, went up in flames during an electronic dance party.

According to CNN, the founder of the Ghost Ship, artist Derick Almena “received a citation in November for hazardous trash and debris surrounding the building,” his second in two years.

Almena deflected blame, however, when interviewed by the Today Show, saying that his “dream was bigger than [his] pocketbook” when it came to keeping up with maintenance of the building.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said that there was no evidence of sprinklers, and the building only had two exits.

The warehouse served as an artist’s workspace and living space made popular as the rising real estate market left many artists in need of homes.

Almena himself lived in the warehouse with his wife and three children, who were reportedly staying the night in a nearby hotel during the party.

In an interview with CNN, Bay Area artist Chris Dunn said, “To have that type of living space totally aboveboard, [landlords and tenants] would be completely priced out. There is a fear if someone blows the whistle on a safety issue that it’s going to lead to them being evicted, because there’s so much money tied up in real estate.”

Pete Veilleux, a friend of Almena’s, was just evicted from his home when the Ghost Ship offered him a space.

“I needed to move– I was evicted through an owner move-in eviction last year, and they offered me a place last year. It was very, very difficult for me to find a place. But this was just too risky for me. It was too scary– mainly for fire (risk) and for lack of privacy. So I didn’t move in,” he said in an interview with CNN.

As a result, the warehouse’s many safety issues were ignored in the months leading up to the fatal fire.

While the cause of the fire is not definite, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent Jill Snyder said a refrigerator may have been a potential source of ignition. Deaths were caused by smoke inhalation, not burns caused by the flames.

In the days following the fire, family and friends of missing, injured, and passed victims shared their final moments with their loved ones.

According to CBS SF Bay Area, “Kelly told the East Bay Times that one grief-stricken mother showed him her phone with a text message from her daughter. It read: ‘I love you. I’m going to die, Mom.'”

On Monday, Dec. 5, Oakland citizens held a vigil for the victims of the fire in an attempt to help the community process the tragedy.

Oakland sports teams, such as the Oakland A’s, the Raiders, and the Warriors, honored the victims through setting up a YouCaring page to collect money for victims, families, and the community.

Money can be donated through the YouCaring page or through various different GoFundMe pages.

Sports teams from Oakland joined together to raise funds for the Ghost Ship's victims.
Sports teams from Oakland joined together to raise funds for the Ghost Ship’s victims.
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About the Contributor
Photo of Mona Murhamer
Mona Murhamer, Staff Writer
Mona Murhamer is a senior in the Carlmont journalism program who seeks out dangerous situations for a good story. Her hobbies include journalism, journalism, and journalism. She hopes to major in journalism and take the skills she learns at Carlmont into her future.

Mona is the editor-in-chief of Scotlight magazine and a staff writer for both the Highlander and Scot Scoop.
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Oakland ‘Ghost Ship’ fire shakes art community