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Video Shows OPD Officers Expressing Concerns A Year Before Ghost Ship Fire

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- New video just released shows Oakland police knew about the living conditions inside the Ghost Ship warehouse long before the deadly fire that killed 36 people.

The East Bay Times obtained body camera video from Oakland police officers called to the warehouse in the Fruitvale District.

There are multiple videos showing officers inside the warehouse more than a year before the fatal fire on December 2, 2016, and other videos as the fire is still burning and officers are talking with survivors who escaped from the blaze.

The one thing that is very clear from the video: Oakland police officers knew the conditions inside the warehouse posed a fire hazard.

What is not known is whether the officers or the department reported the problems.

"I don't feel comfortable climbing up there. Let's just make it quick," an Oakland police officer can be heard saying in the released body camera video recorded on September 18, 2015.

He expressed concerns about going up the makeshift staircase to the second floor of the Ghost Ship warehouse. It is the same staircase survivors say caused a bottleneck during the evacuations from the December 2 fire, leaving people trapped to die on the second floor.

A few minutes later, in the same body camera video, those same officers are heard talking about the potential fire danger.

"One spark. One spark and it will all be bad," says one officer. "It's like a huge fireplace in here."

"Oh yeah," responds another officer. "I would be so worried about electrical wires."

Over a year later, investigators say an electrical fire started during an early December party, killing 36 people inside.

In another body camera video recorded as the Ghost Ship warehouse was still burning, a survivor tells the officer he couldn't get down the makeshift stairs. Instead, he escaped out a window, using an electrical wire to rappel down the side of the building.

"I was holding onto a weird power cord. It was so much smoke dude, and it melted, and I just dropped," said Ghost Ship survivor Aaron Martin in the clip. "And I was like Oh my God, I can't believe I made it.'"

Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale District watched the body camera videos and said police need to report those types of conditions.

"There's so many priorities that they have, but it is their responsibility to report illegal activity as well as hazardous conditions," said Gallo.

Gallo also said the city has clarified with the police department the policies for reporting fire dangers either to the building inspector or the fire marshal.

KPIX 5 reached out to Oakland police to ask if the officers seen in the body camera video reported the problems, but did not get a response.

The master tenant of the Ghost Ship, Derick Almena, and another tenant, Max Harris, are both facing 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the deadly fire. Both are expected to go on trial in July.

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