With Oakland's second deadly fire in four months, new evidence shows that a fire captain called to have the building at 2551 San Pablo Avenue shut down for safety reasons as of January 8, but higher-ups in the department decided to take some temporary steps and give the landlord time to make improvements. As the Associated Press reports, a January 8 email from OFD Captain Richard Chew called attention to the hazards in the building, including a fire alarm that had been pulled and needed to be reset, a padlocked door leading to a fire escape, and piles of garbage on the third floor. He suggested that the building be shut down immediately "due to the danger to life safety."

A second email the following day, January 9, from a different captain pointed out that there were no fire extinguishers in the building.

Battalion Chief Geoff Hunter told Chew that the padlock on the escape door should be cut, and that the landlord should be contacted to remove the garbage and fix the fire alarm. And Acting Assistant Fire Marshal Maria Sabatini apparently agreed that the owner should be given 30 days to make any repairs.

But it sounds like not much was repaired, via a February 25 email from Fire Lt. Steve Padgett, who referred to the building as a "known fire hazard," and wrote "There are no fire extinguishers. Storage in the hallways. Faulty or unmaintained smoke detectors. This building is dangerous!"

The back-and-forth, and the decision not to red-tag the building given the city's already tight housing situation, highlights the delicate balance the city was trying keep in the months following the Ghost Ship tragedy. In that time, as the Chronicle reports, only four buildings were red-tagged, and none for fire safety hazards.

The cause of the fire, according to an initial investigation, was a candle burning in a unit that did not have electricity, as we learned Friday. Suspicions of arson had been raised after it was revealed that the landlord and the non-profit master tenant, Urojas Community Services, were in an ongoing eviction battle.

The ongoing communication between fire officials about the building, and an inspection that was conducted there just three days before the fire, are proof that more streamlined communications policies put in place after the Ghost Ship fire are working, according to Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Schaaf announced Friday that the city would be doubling the staff at the Fire Prevention Bureau, adding six new inspectors as soon as soon as possible, as KRON 4 reports.

"The San Pablo Avenue Fire is another tragedy that reveals the urgent need to overhaul our inspection process," Schaaf said. "We must expose the reckless property owners who are putting profits above safety. The two tragic fires over the last months highlight the critical importance of leadership, training, technology and staffing at our Fire Department; today’s actions address those needs."

See more about the city's action plan here.

Previously: West Oakland Building That Burned Monday Was A Halfway House With A Troubled History