The warehouse was being used illegally as an apartmentlike complex for artists who were too poor to pay for rent in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The illegal housing situation in the Bay Area has grown since the 2008 real estate fallout and continual high pricing as kept the situation a large one. Places such as this Oakland warehouse, aptly named “The Ghost Ship” are not uncommon as many subcommunities of displaced individuals struggling to make ends meet exist all throughout the Bay Area in the form of trailer cities or repurposed apartments and warehouses.
After interviews conducted by local authorities, the cause of the fire was narrowed down to a fault in the warehouse’s electrical system. The warehouse was in need of repair and was under inspection for building code violations at the time of the fire. There were multiple complaints prior to the fire about the warehouse’s faulty electrical systems, the building only had two exit doorways (too few for a building of its size), and was equipped with fire extinguishers that proved ineffective against fires of the size seen Sunday.
Another issue with the warehouse was the sheer amount of flammable material kept so near a dangerous electricity source. The warehouse was filled with all manner of wooden or cloth items which burned easily at the slightest hint of a spark.
Issues that the tenants had concerning the safety of the warehouse were brushed aside by its landlord.
The fire erupted around midnight Sunday morning after a party that took place over the
weekend seemingly overtaxed the aged electrical system of the warehouse and sparked a fire that spread across the entire complex. As most of its tenants were asleep, response was delayed and the limited amounts of exit pathways caused many people to asphyxiate or die. The official body count Sunday night was eleven people and reached a high of 36 confirmed dead by Monday morning.
The local fire department has released a statement that claims the fire was so extensive that it will take a few days to clear out the debris and reach a final casualty count.