Details are still emerging and the names of the dead have yet to be confirmed in a deadly warehouse fire that broke out Friday night in a bohemian space operated by an Oakland artists' collective called Satya Yuga. The space appears to have also been nicknamed the Ghost Ship, and a Tumblr page with that name shows flyers from past events and photos of the eclectically decorated interior of the second floor, stuffed with furniture, musical instruments, rugs, and hand-crafted wood structures, nooks, and sculptures. As the group described it on their Facebook page, "An unprecedented fusion of earth home bomb bunker helter skelter spelunker shelters and Indonesian straw huts rolling into valleys and down alleys."
Satya Yuga takes its name from a Hindu term for the first of four eras of humanity, when the human race is ruled by gods.
The group, which was said to include some 18 full-time residents of the Fruitvale District live-work space, further described themselves as "a collective of musicians, painters, woodworkers, hot dog vendors, scrappers, boutique designers and lingerie models." A friend of a couple of the DJ's at Friday's event, which was billed as the 100% Silk tour with headliner Golden Donna, told the East Bay Times that the collective was known to have parties like this to help pay rent on the 9,900-square-foot space. 100% Silk is an LA-based dance music label, as the LA Times reports, founded by couple Amanda and Britt Brown, and it "has played a crucial role in the development of independent electronic dance music in Los Angeles."
The East Bay Express is reporting that the building at 1305 31st Avenue had been flagged by city building inspectors following habitability complaints as recently as November 14, and building inspectors were on the property at that date. They noted an "illegal interior building structure," however they could not confirm specific code violations. Reportedly, however, the only way in and out of the second-floor event space, where the fire reportedly broke out, was a narrow, makeshift staircase made out of stacked wooden pallets.
The building owner is listed as Chor N. Ng of Oakland. Oakland City Council member Noel Gallo told the East Bay Times that he's received numerous complaints about the parties at the building, as well as complaints about illegal dumping around it.
Photos show the labyrinthine and highly flammable looking second-floor gathering space, which featured a drum kit, multiple pianos and organs, speakers, and other musical instruments. The density of stuff in the space has clearly hindered efforts to investigate the scene and recover bodies, because of the instability of the wooden roof and floors following the fire.
A Google spreadsheet has cropped up with various people offering lodging to anyone displaced in the fire.
Update: The Chronicle spoke with some surviving attendees of the party, who describe the intimate, maze-like space. Says one, "The building itself was an art piece. The walls were completely covered with makeshift pieces of wood, so finding the staircase if you’d never been there before was difficult because they had built it into the wall in a certain way... There’s so much happening all over the building, so it’s hard to tell where the path is to anything. It all felt very cramped. The second floor was very much right on top of the first... I can’t imagine how long it’d take 40 people to get out, even in a calm situation."
Update 2: Yet another attendee tells the East Bay Express that the stairs were "poorly built" and he even twisted his ankle a bit coming down them. By most accounts, it appears that most anyone who was in the upstairs space, which was nicknamed the "rave cave," likely did not make it out. However a DJ who was spinning as the fire broke out, Golden Donna, has survived.
Below, a video of a party in the space from June.