News & Blogs 2 charged for Oakland squat fire

Dmac

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2 men charged with 36 counts of manslaughter for the fire at a squat in Oakland, last December

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/05/us/oakland-fire-ghost-ship.html?_r=0


2 Men Charged With Manslaughter in Deadly Oakland Fire


By THOMAS FULLERJUNE 5, 2017

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  • deadly fire at an Oakland warehouse in December.

    The men — Derick Almena, the leaseholder, and Max Harris, who assisted him in a supervisory role in the building — were arrested on Monday in connection with the fire, said Nancy E. O’Malley, the district attorney of Alameda County, who brought the charges.

    The warehouse, which was illegally occupied, was the site of the nation’s deadliest structural fire in more than a decade. Most of the victims were attending a party on the second floor and were unable to escape down a makeshift staircase.

    Mr. Almena and Mr. Harris “knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape,” Ms. O’Malley said at a news conference on Monday. “They then filled that area with human beings and are now facing the consequences of their actions.”

Each man faces 39 years in prison, Ms. O’Malley added.

Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said the cause of the fire was not likely to be found “because of the nature of the fire and its consumption of nearly all of the evidence.”

Ms. Drenick said there were no plans to charge anyone else in the fire and described the investigation as “completed.”

As the master tenant, Mr. Almena had a managerial role among the residents of the warehouse, most of whom were artists seeking an affordable space in a city that has seen sharply rising housing costs in recent years.

GRAPHIC
The Oakland Fire: What Happened Inside the Ghost Ship
Diagrams and photographs showing the interior of the building illustrate some of the factors that made the fire so deadly.

oakland-warehouse-ghost-ship-fire-1481518660443-master495-v2.png
OPEN GRAPHIC

Mike Madden, the father of one of the victims, Griffin Madden, said he was surprised that the owner of the building, Chor Nar Siu Ng, was not being charged.

“Our hope is that this aggressive approach continues, including pursuing charges against her,” Mr. Madden said.

The warehouse, which occupants had named the Ghost Ship, was one block from a fire station, and firefighters responded within three minutes of receiving the 911 call on the night of Dec. 2. But the structure, which was filled with wooden antiques and curios, was quickly engulfed in flames and filled with a thick, choking smoke that rose to the second floor.

The court documents filed by the district attorney’s office on Monday said Mr. Almena collected “fence boards, shingles, window frames, wooden sculptures, tapestries, pianos, organs” and other “ramshackle pieces” that served as the kindling for the fire.

Mr. Harris was responsible for renting out the upstairs of the warehouse for the party and prepared the space for the event, the documents say.

“In the course of his preparation, Harris blocked off an area of the second floor that included a second stairwell, which effectively reduced the upstairs guests to a single point of escape,” the documents said.

The party was held without any permit from the city.

The fire highlighted failures in Oakland’s fire inspection system as well as the scramble for affordable housing in the city.

Mr. Harris, interviewed two days after the fire, had attributed the blaze to an electrical system that he described as being in disarray. Efforts to have the owner update the system went unheeded, he said.

“We reached out on multiple occasions, complaining that the power wasn’t working,” Mr. Harris said at the time. “They made no attempt to make it right. The landlord was only interested in trying to collect money for electricity.”

Timothy Williams contributed reporting from New York
 
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AlwaysLost

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So they're being accused of knowingly doing this? That's fucked if it's true...
No if they had knowingly did it they would have been charged with Capital Murder and Arson instead of manslaughter.

Manslaughter is unintended death through negligence. Like a drunk driver runs over a kid. Its not murder cause it wasn't intentional but still a big crime.
 
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FrumpyWatkins

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Did they ever answer or care to answer if the actual owner knew what was going on inside his property? The one guy is described as the "master tenant" that doesn't exactly sound like a legitimate legal title...
 

bystander

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"Master tenant" is probably just some goofy way of saying "lease holder". If there was (numerous) undocumented residents living in the space there would need to be a distinguishing title which would correspond to that individual and their role. To me "master tenant" sounds like an individual who actually signed the lease; giving them a greater responsibility & liability to protect the safety of their guest & that property..

Although sad that these two are being charged; it does makes sense. Just because there was no "ill intentions" - doesn't mean they aren't responsible for their actions & what ever role they played in this tragedy.. I mean a lot of people died after-all.

& as the "master tenant"- they would have given the approval for the "party" in the unfit structure with inadequate means of escape. "I never thought it would happen" is not an excuse..knowing the building you rent had electrical issues - then plugging in powerful sound systems or other electronics?

now if the owner of the property was aware of the current use of the building (ie: residential housing) and failed to convert their building by providing more adequate escape routes, fires systems, fire extinguishers etc, then they should be liable for this terrible tragedy.
 
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Dmac

Dmac

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I just saw where these two made a deal with the prosecutor and pleaded guilty, one got nine years the other got six. They could get out in half that.
 

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