Oakland warehouse where fire killed 36 hadn’t been inspected in 30 years

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Firefighters working inside the burned warehouse on Sunday after the fatal fire in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California.
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REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Inspectors hadn’t been in the warehouse turned club where 36 people died in a fire last week in Oakland, California, in three decades, according to a city official.

“In terms of the planning and building inspector, our records didn’t show that an inspector had been inside the building in 30 years,” the director of Oakland’s Planning and Building Department, Darin Ranelletti, said at a press conference on Wednesday, the local news affiliate ABC7 reported.

“That means that we had no applications for permits in the past 30 years and there were no violations that were submitted for interior work within the main building that can be attributed to that street address.”

The warehouse was an illegally converted space where the Ghost Ship Artists Collective reportedly lived and threw parties. The fire started on the first floor Friday night, spreading quickly through the warehouse before the second floor collapsed, trapping people inside.

Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a press conference that she didn’t know the last time the warehouse was inspected.

“I’m creating a task force of national fire-safety experts,” Schaaf said. “My immediate priorities for this task force are enhanced building safety, event safety, and complaint procedures. We will learn from this tragedy and make this city safer with a thorough, methodical review. We will not let our emotions lead to hasty decisions or witch hunts.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that Oakland was investigating safety complaints on the property but that inspectors hadn’t gained access to the warehouse. Over the past 30 years, the property has had dozens of complaints – ranging from structures built without permits to illegal parking – according to the Times.

Since the warehouse was zoned for commercial use, it wasn’t designated for residential use, or for the dance parties that went on there. The 10,000-square-foot building didn’t have sprinklers or smoke detectors, according to Reuters, and it had only two exterior doors for people to flee out of on Friday.

It was the deadliest US fire in over a decade.