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Report: Oakland warehouse had history of complaints

Oakland warehouse fire

City records show that habitability complaints were made against the owner of a California warehouse that went up in flames on Friday night, the East Bay Express reported.

The complaints regarding an “illegal interior building structure” in Oakland were made as recently as Nov. 14. It appears city inspectors went to the building that day but couldn’t verify code violations, the Express reported.

Investigation begins into deadly Oakland fire

Another complaint against the property’s owner, made on Nov. 13, claimed there was “a ton of garbage piling up on the property” next to the warehouse. The garbage included materials that were possibly “hazardous,” the newspaper reported.

Citing property records, the newspaper said the building is owned by a trust that was set up by Chor N. Ng, of Oakland. It also reported that in Oct. 2014, the city had cited Ng over housing and “other structures” being built without permits in the building. A month prior, the warehouse “was also noticed for blight because of a large number of pallets and construction materials blocking the sidewalk,” the paper reported.

The building was the site of a deadly fire on Friday night. Authorities said they are prepared to deal with up to 40 deaths, and Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said that nine people have been confirmed dead.

A charred wall is seen outside a warehouse after a fire broke out during an electronic dance party, resulting in at least nine deaths and many unaccounted for in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, Dec. 3, 2016.
A charred wall is seen outside a warehouse after a fire broke out during an electronic dance party, resulting in at least nine deaths and many unaccounted for in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, Dec. 3, 2016. REUTERS

Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloche-Reed said some people escaped, and that between 50 and 100 people were at the warehouse at the time of the fire. She said the warehouse was subdivided into artist studios and was packed with furniture and other objects, which would have made it hard to escape in an emergency.

On the ground in Oakland after deadly warehouse fire

“It looked like individuals came in and set up their own little partitions, their own little studios, doing whatever type of artsy thing that each individual was doing,” Deloche-Reed said. “There’s a lot of statues and mannequins.” 

Deloche-Reed said the only way out of the second floor, where bodies were found, was a makeshift stairwell made of pallets. 

Fire officials said the building was not equipped with sprinklers.

The Express reports that the building was known as the “Ghost Ship.” Pictures that seem to show its interior reveal rich layers of furniture, hanging tapestries, lamps, wooden decor and instruments.