Tenant and Leaseholder Charged for Deadly Oakland 'Ghost Ship' Fire

O'Malley said the felony charges are against property manager Derick Ion Almena, 47, who converted the warehouse into an artist residence and underground concert venue called the Ghost Ship, and Max Harris, who worked as the Ghost Ship's "creative director" and organized the concert that occurred the night of the fire on December 2.

Derick Almena and Max Harris "knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape" when they hosted the dance party December 2 in the Ghost Ship warehouse, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said.

Almena was arrested in Lake County, California, and Harris was arrested in Los Angeles.

Attorneys for Almena and Harris were not immediately available on Monday morning.

"Almena's and Harris' actions were reckless, creating a high risk of death", the district attorney office statement read.

If convicted, Almena and Harris each face up to 39 years in prison.

The blaze broke out during an electronic dance party, killing those who could not escape from the dilapidated two-story warehouse.

On Dec. 2, 2016, almost 100 people piled into the warehouse for a concert, and Harris, the venue's "creative director", blocked off a stairwell that served as a secondary exit, authorities said. Today, a step towards justice has been taken. And now details are emerging from the District Attorney's Office investigation as to why Harris is being held equally responsible for the 36 fire deaths as Almena.

The warehouse, which was zoned and permitted only as a warehouse, became a live-and-work space for many artists.

"You feel like you're in a state of limbo, waiting to hear something", she said.

The fire broke out during a rave at the warehouse on the night of December 2. A party was held at the property the night of the fire.

Alameda County Dist. Atty.

"The paying guests to this event faced a almost impossible labyrinth to get out of the building", O'Malley said.

Those who knew him had conflicting views of the 47-year-old, with some describing him as a loving artist and father and others calling him a slumlord. Neither have been charged, however, in connection with the fire.

"In theory they could even be second-degree murder charges, but involuntary manslaughter seems a no-brainer", Weisberg said.

The Ghost Ship fire was one of the deadliest in recent California history.

"I greeted nearly every single person who walked through that door", Harris said in December, referring to the night of the deadly fire. She says one way out of the building was blocked. She retired on May 5 amid criticism over her management of the department and inspection procedures. "They then filled that area with human beings", O'Malley said. "We all have a lot of anger at Derick for all of this". The lawsuits also name Pacific Gas & Electric, alleging the utility should have known the warehouse was wired hazardously. Several people were using the building as a live/work space.

Reuters has previously reported that before the fire, city officials "had multiple opportunities to see that residents were illegally living there in hazardous conditions", but failed to take action.

  • Leroy Wright