The City of Oakland released a trove of documents Wednesday pertaining to the December 2 Ghost Ship fire, and as the Chronicle and others are reporting, they reveal what we already mostly knew: that Oakland law enforcement and firefighters were well aware of the illegal space and what it looked like inside. And though this news appears unconnected to the document release specifically, the Chronicle also reports that Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed has been on leave from the department for an unknown length of time, and her duties have been assumed by Deputy Chief Darin White.
Per the Chronicle, possibly the most damning revelation in the heavily redacted documents is a police report from March 1, 2015 of some kind of disturbance or false imprisonment situation going on at 2:35 a.m at the space. OPD arrived at the warehouse following a 911 call saying that there were "15 people barricaded” inside, and the caller "heard sounds like a tazer [sic] and threatening remarks." Cops arrived, spoke to an "owner" who may or may not have been Derick Ion Almena, and made sure that people were allowed to leave. Then, according to the report, they "stood by and preserved the peace as people left the scene."
Another officer apparently was called to the scene about an hour later following a report of "an illegal rave with drug and alcohol sales," but no arrests or citations were made during that call either.
As SFist notes, in the Oakland Fire Department's document summary, they have records of EMS calls in June and September of 2015, and one in June 2016, six months before the fire. In all three cases the name of the person seeking treatment or any other details have been redacted.
This jibes with an early account from an Oakland firefighter who said another firefighter in the rig on the way to the scene that night said "I know that place" and referred to it as "like a maze" inside.
Chief Reed had previously said that Oakland fire inspectors had not been in the space for an inspection since 2004, and the department has claimed ignorance of the fact that it was being used as a residence, despite the fact that there was a fire station just a block or two away.
We already knew that city inspectors had tried to gain access to the building as recently as just two weeks before the fire, but got no answer at the door. Further we know that Child Protective Services had made repeated visits to the building in order to check on the three kids belonging to Almena and wife Micah Allison, who had lost custody of the children temporarily in recent years for reasons that have not entirely been made public.
So, the evidence is mounting that many public employees had the opportunity to sound alarm bells about the safety issues that the building's makeshift, cluttered interior spaces posed, though none of them did. And as the Chronicle notes, it may not matter a great deal legally since "state law provides a liability shield for local governments for failing to conduct building inspections."