Police in California on Monday arrested two men for their connection to a December warehouse fire in the city of Oakland that killed 36 people.
Prosecutors have charged Derick Almena and Max Harris with involuntary manslaughter. They each face up to 39 years in prison if convicted, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said at a press conference on Monday.
According to a criminal complaint, Almena and Harris are accused of creating hazardous conditions inside the warehouse, known locally as the Ghost Ship, which only had two exterior doors – one of which was blocked on the night of the fire, while people attended a party on the building’s second floor, authorities said.
The building also had no fire supression measures and no lighted pathways to the exits, O’Malley said, calling the suspects’ actions “reckless.”
Reuters reported that in two years before the fire, Oakland officials had recieved “dozens” of complaints about the warehouse and had entered the building at least six times to find hazardous conditions. The building had reportedly not undergone a formal inspection in 30 years.
“We continue to mourn the loss of 36 young and vibrant men and women … who should be with us today,” O’Malley said at a press conference. “Defendants Almena and Harris knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape, filled it with human beings, and are now facing the consequences of their deadly actions.”
The incident became the nation’s deadliest buidling fire since the 2003 Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island that claimed 100 lives.