On the night of December 2, Joel Shanahan, more popularly known as Golden Donna, had a tour stop in Oakland, California. Alongside him for his 100% Silk West Coast tour were RADAR, Russell E.Ll. Butler, Cherushii, Obsidian Blade, Nackt, and Piano Rain. Before the full lineup could be rolled out, tragedy struck. At 11:30pm a fire broke out at 1305 31st Ave, the site of an artist collective known as the Ghost Ship. The fire spread quickly and it took until almost 4:30 in the morning to subdue the blaze.
As of this afternoon, 36 people have been said to have perished in the flames. Up to 100 people may have crowded into the event space, dubbed the Rave Cave. Dozens are still missing and authorities have yet to finish shifting through the wreckage. The body count is expected to rise.
— The Detroit Scanner (@DetroitScanner) December 3, 2016
The East Bay times reports that an investigation into the property the Ghost ship resided within began just three weeks prior to Friday night’s fire. There were concerns over illegal structures inside of the warehouse. Last month complaints were leveled against the property due to clutter piling up outside of the building. Eva Ng, the daughter of the landowner, Chor Ng, has asserted that the building is not designed for inhabitants and that they were not aware people were living there. The space, however, was known to be a place where artists not just showcased their work but squatted as well. The warehouse had no sprinkler system or smoke alarms, with a lack of exits in the event of an emergency.
Derick Ion Almena ran the art collective and lived there with his wife Micah and their children. On the night of the fire, Micah and the children were staying at a hotel, as evidenced by a Facebook post Icon made after the event. The post drew a lot of heat, with criticism railed that he was lamenting about his property and not mentioning the grave loss of life at the event.
At issue is Derek Ion’s culpability in the wake of the fire. The warehouse is said to have had lots of wood inside, art supplies, and other clutter littering the inside the building, with a maze of wooden structures overseen by Ion. Unfortunately, the warehouse had only two exits and the makeshift stairs that connected the two floors were made of wood pallets, preventing rescue. Currently no criminal charges have been filed. Commentators on the status and on other news stories have made mention of warnings about safety concerns going unheeded, in addition to the warehouse manager’s alleged drug use. In this video hosted on his YouTube channel, Ion appears to be unhinged.
The integrity of the building is also in question as was the safety of Ion’s children back in 2014. Micah Allison, wife of Derek Ion, made a post in 2014 mentioning that the water had been turned off in the building. The kids were later taken into custody and sent to live with relatives in 2015. The kids were officially released from CPS custody into their parents’ care earlier this year, as revealed by a Facebook Ion made back in May.
Jonathan Bernbaum, a visual artist that crafted special audio visual presentations for artists in the edm scene (Knife Party and Markus Schulz being among them), has been declared one of those lost in the warehouse fire. Many more, who were brothers and sisters in blood and in name, are to be counted among the souls who will be missed.
This tragedy hits close to home as once upon a time, the SDC Warehouse stood proudly at 1620 Keene before it burned down at the dawn of 2008 on New Year’s eve. The warehouse functioned as a collective for artists and dance parties were thrown until sunrise over the years. People lost all their belongings in that fire, but thankfully there was no loss of life.
The event page for the warehouse party has been turned into a memorial page where visitors can leave condolences and check for updates. The memorial page can be accessed at https://www.facebook.com/events/594396784086012.
A Family Assistance Center is available to help locate loved ones and receive support services. Visit 2425 E. 12th St. or call 510-382-3000.
To donate money to the victims of the Oakland warehouse fire, the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts has set up a page at https://www.youcaring.com/firevictimsofoaklandfiredec232016-70668
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