The story of the tragic Ghost Ship fire has become one of warnings both missed and ignored. Former friends of master tenant Derick Ion Almena say they told him that his space was a death trap, but that he allegedly laughed it off. City officials admit receiving complaints of illegal construction at the warehouse, and yet inspectors with Oakland's Planning and Building Department hadn't been inside in roughly 30 years. However, as ABC 7 reports, one city agency was allegedly inside the space just days before it went up in flames and might have seen the dangerous conditions.
According to a man who claims he regularly worked at Ghost Ship doing odd jobs and security, Child Protective Services visited the warehouse days before the fire. "They were everywhere," the man, who asked to remain anonymous, told the channel. "They know how the building looked and they passed them."
That CPS would still be interested in the Almenas makes sense. A former friend and neighbor of the family, Danielle Boudreaux, had reported the Almenas to CPS for unsafe conditions inside the warehouse in 2015. The agency reportedly removed the three children from the warehouse and only returned them in July of this year.
Officials with Alameda County Child Protective Services would not confirm their visit to the channel, citing confidentiality, but the Ghost Ship worker insists they were there to check on the children. The question as to just what CPS workers could have done about the fire hazards inside of Ghost Ship remains, but if the officials were truly there and did witness the dangerous conditions as the worker alleges and this would not have been the first time they were allowed inside then it is enough to make one wonder if an opportunity to prevent the catastrophe was missed.
What's more, the same man says there was a small fire on Thursday — the day before the fire that eventually consumed that warehouse and killed 36 people — and that it broke out because of a refrigerator on the first floor. He told ABC 7 that he helped extinguish that blaze.
While the findings have not been confirmed, officials believe the December 2 deadly blaze may have started with a refrigerator on the ground floor.