OAKLAND—Two arrests were made in connection to the massive fire that broke out at Oakland’s warehouse turned underground concert venue, which housed several bay area artists known as the ‘Ghost Ship,’ that left 36 people dead who were attending a music event inside the venue.
Derick Ion Almena, 47, the property manager of Ghost Ship and Max Harris, “creative director” of venue were arrested on Monday, June 5, 6 months after the fire. Almena and Harris were charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter and face up to 39 years in jail if convicted.
According to court documents, Almena, lease holder of the property, “knowingly created a firetrap” by turning a warehouse property into a concert venue housing as many as 25 artists. Almena, who leased the property in November 2014, ignored several safety regulations required by the city and built the Ghost Ship using “non-conventional materials,” such as recycled dry wood, window frames, wooden sculptures, piano, organs, rugs, trailers, wooden furniture and other ramshackle pieces.
The warehouse stored highly flammable materials from “ceiling to floor” and wasn’t equipped with any fire suppressants.
On December 2, 2016, Harris rented out the upper portion of the warehouse to a promoter and blocked off a second stairwell which served as an alternate exit point in the property. The Los Angeles Times reported during the fire, attendees at the event rushed to exit the building, but they did not have access to the second stairwell.
The existence of highly flammable materials combined with a shabby and “overloaded electricity system” has been viewed as possible cause of the fire, court documents stated.