Oakland fire: Warehouse ‘too risky’ even for man without home
Oakland, California (CNN)Pete Veilleux said he was desperate and had no place to live. His friends Derick Almena and Micah Allison offered him a place to stay at the “Ghost Ship” warehouse, which Almena leased.
But Veilleux refused.
“They had asked me if I would move in several times,” he said Tuesday.
“I needed to move — I was evicted through an owner move-in eviction last year, and they offered me a place last year. It was very, very difficult for me to find a place. … But this was just too risky for me. It was too scary — mainly for fire (risk) and for lack of privacy, also. So I didn’t move in.”
That decision may have saved his life.
But Veilleux, Almena’s friend who refused to move in, said he thought the building was a fire hazard “when I first went in there.”
He said he’s not sure why the conditions were poor, but he has an idea.
“I speculate that people are desperate for housing, both for events and for residences,” he said. “And when people get desperate, safety drops off the list of priorities, unfortunately.”
It’s not clear whether Almena will face criminal charges. Authorities are trying to determine whether there’s any criminal liability and — if so — who is responsible, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said.
Last month, the warehouse’s owners had received notification of city code violations for hazardous trash and debris, property records show.
Veilleux said he’s not in a position to say whether his friend should face criminal charges.
“There’s enough people out there shouting their opinions about that, and I don’t feel the need to do that,” he said. “I feel the need to address the underlying concerns of the lack of safe, affordable housing.”
Outpouring of support
Hundreds of mourners packed Lake Merritt Pergola in Oakland on Monday night to honor the victims.
“What a heartbreaking last few days it’s been in our town,” said Kevin Blackburn, who posted a photo of the scene
“I can’t even imagine the pain you’re going through right now. A senseless tragedy that will never make sense. Find solace in each other, in this wacky, beautiful, vibrant, ever-resilient town — Oakland is with you.”
Vigil happening right now for victims of the Ghost Ship fire. What a heartbreaking last few days it's been in our town. For those who have lost friends and loved ones, I can't even imagine the pain you're going through right now. A senseless tragedy that will never make sense. Find solace in each other, in this wacky, beautiful, vibrant, ever-resilient town — Oakland is with you. #Oakland #oaklandfire #ghostship #oaklandish #exploreoak #oaklandloveit #abc7now #nbcbayarea #sfgate #hellabay #lakemerritt #oaklandvigil #westcoast_exposures #wildbayarea #wildcalifornia #bayareabuzz #eastbayexpress #oaklandwearhouse #oaklandstrong #huffpostgram #cnnireport @libbyschaaf
‘I had to let him go’
For filmmaker and photographer Bob Mul, the warehouse was both his home and his community. The 27-year-old stopped to listen to some music Friday night before heading downstairs to work on a painting. He smelled smoke from his studio.
As Mul rushed to save his camera and laptop, he spotted a heavy-set artist who called out for help.
“I broke my ankle. I need you to pull me out,” a distraught Mul recalled the artist saying. “The fire was just getting too hot and the smoke was just getting too bad and I had to leave him there.”
A haven for artists
In addition to the loss of 36 lives, Oakland artists have also lost a place to call home.
Darin Ranelletti, Oakland’s interim director of planning and building, said the city approved permits for the building to be used only as a warehouse, not for residences. City officials didn’t sign off on a special permit for the event, Ranelletti said.
Firefighters found no evidence of sprinklers in the warehouse.
Vega acknowledged that “nobody should’ve been living there.” But she said there’s not enough affordable housing for artists in the Bay Area.
“We need housing,” she said. “We need help.”
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/06/us/oakland-fire-investigation/index.html