Authorities investigating a deadly fire that broke out in an Oakland, California, warehouse in December say that all 36 victims who perished in the disaster were killed by smoke inhalation.
The warehouse fire broke out Dec. 2, consuming a two-story, 10,000-square-foot warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship” that served as an artists’ collective and exhibition space.
Fire officials say the blaze started at the back of the building, but they have not determined the cause. The warehouse’s leader, who faces charges of criminal negligence, insists that the fire broke out in an adjacent building from which the warehouse drew its power.
The Ghost Ship was one of several collective spaces used by struggling artists of all types and ages as a place to display their works, hold events, work, and live. According to the Los Angeles Times, firefighters and former tenants said the warehouse had “an internal maze of structures” that made it difficult for patrons to escape the fire, which spread rapidly throughout the building.
Authorities reported that about 100 people were gathered in the back of the warehouse for the concert.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the City of Oakland had received several complaints that the conditions inside the building were unsafe, “including reports of piles of trash and faulty electrical wiring.” The extent and severity of the alleged problems were unknown, and city officials never moved to shut the place down, likely concerned that the residents would be driven to other similar facilities or onto the streets. Authorities were investigating complaints of illegal housing in the unit when the fire occurred, the Washington Post reported.
The victims ranged in age from 17 to 61. Most were U.S. citizens but residents of Finland, Korea, and Guatemala were among the deceased.