- Title: Two arrested over deadly Oakland, California, 'Ghost Ship' fire
- Date: 5th June 2017
- Summary: OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (FILE - DECEMBER 05, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF EXTERIORS OF BURNED OUT BUILDING OAKLAND FIREMEN AT SCENE VARIOUS OF PEOPLE AT MAKESHIFT MEMORIAL
- Embargoed: 19th June 2017 22:19
- Keywords: California Ghost Ship warehouse fire Oakland
- Location: OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- City: OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Disaster/Accidents,Fires
- Reuters ID: LVA0066K05XDZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Two men were charged with involuntary manslaughter on Monday (June 5) for creating what prosecutors described as a "fire trap" at Oakland, California, warehouse where 36 people died in a blaze at an illegal dance party last year.
Derrick Ion Almena, 47, and Max Harris, were taken into custody elsewhere in the state earlier on Monday and face up to 39 years in prison if convicted, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said at a news conference.
Almena rented the warehouse, which was known as the Ghost Ship, and ran it as an art collective and communal residence. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Harris was a creative director of the art space.
"Defendants Almena and Harris knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape, then filled that area with human beings," O'Malley said. "And they are now facing the consequences of their actions."
The 10,000-square-foot building lacked sprinklers and smoke detectors, and wooden pallets partially formed a makeshift stairway between the first and second floors, officials have said. It had just two exterior doors.
On Dec. 2, flames raced through what authorities say was an illegal, rave-style dance party on the second floor of the sprawling two-story building, which had a warehouse permit but was leased to the artists' collective.
O'Malley said Almena and Harris were criminally negligent because they had allowed people to live in the warehouse unbeknownst to the city, fire department and owners, permitting illegal construction and floor-to-ceiling storage that proved highly flammable.
On the night of the dance party, she said, the men blocked one exit to the building as party-goers gathered there and provided no lighted exit pathways to the remaining outside door.
Authorities say that because nearly all of the evidence was destroyed by the flames, the precise cause of the fire may never be determined.
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