Oakland warehouse fire: Who should be held responsible?

Oakland Warehouse fire

A criminal investigation is underway in the deadly Oakland, California, warehouse fire. The fire started on Friday during a late-night dance party. Flames raced through the building.

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At least 36 people were killed, and the final toll could be much higher. Officials have released the names of only seven of the confirmed dead, and the victims are as young as 17.

The building, known as the “Ghost Ship” containing artist studios, may have been an illegal home for dozens of people.

Officials told CBS News that crews have only searched through about 40 percent of the charred warehouse so far. 

We now know that as flames engulfed the Oakland arts collective Friday night, dozens of people were trapped inside, reports CBS News correspondent Carter Evans.

“We’re finding people throughout the entire square footage of that structure,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said.

One survivor said their fire extinguishers were virtually useless.
“It would have been like trying to put out like a bonfire with a water pistol. Like, we tried. And at some point, we were just trying to get people out of the space,” the person said.
Many did not make it out alive, and many may still be inside the burned-out two story building.

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“We found three grouped together, six grouped together, four grouped together,” Oakland Fire Battalion chief Melinda Drayton said.

“What does that tell you?” Evans asked.

“We are looking at bodies on top of each other, the presumption is from the second floor fall,” she said.

“So they couldn’t even get out of the second floor,” Evans said.

“It does not appear that they were able to get out of the second floor,” Drayton said.
Video posted from inside shows a party going on, just before the fire broke out. The warehouse had been converted into an eclectic live-work space for artists. Not much is left.

Officials said they came to inspect the property last month.
“All that I know is that we were not able to gain access to the interior of the building,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said.
Max Ohr says he lived at the artists collective for the past two years and helped host Friday’s event.
“Did you ever see any inspectors visit there?” Evans asked him.

“No, no, and if there were, we would have let them in,” Ohr said.

“Who do you think should be held responsible?” Evans asked.

“Ultimately, it should fall on the property holder. I mean, they’re the ones that gave us the space with messed-up electricity, with no sprinkler system,” Ohr said.
“What about the owner of this building?” Evans asked the mayor.

“We assume that there are going to be many, many questions,” Schaaf said. “We have a team of city employees … to pull out every record that we have concerning this building. … That is being done right now.”

CBS News reached out to the building’s owner for comment, but have not yet heard back. Her daughter told the Los Angeles Times they believed the building was only being used as an art collective. An Oakland city councilman said the building was never permitted as a residence and was under investigation. Meanwhile, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is at the scene helping with the investigation.