Officials Say a Refrigerator May Have Been the Cause of the Oakland Ghost Ship Fire

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Over the weekend, a fire broke out in an Oakland warehouse and arts collective known as Ghost Ship, killing 36 people. On Tuesday, government officials reported that the source of the fire may have been a refrigerator.


USA Today reports that Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern was told by the U.S Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives that while it’s too early to say for sure, a refrigerator in the warehouse may have been the cause of the fatal fire, which devastated a community. “On that back wall, there is a significant 45 degree burn,” Ahern told KTVU. A few survivors of the fire also told KTVU that they saw flames coming from the back of the refrigerator, but the investigation into the incident is still underway. In the meantime, a state of emergency has been declared in Oakland in order to qualify for federal and state funds to deal with the aftermath.

In a press conference Tuesday, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said that authorities were looking into whether or not there was any “criminal liability attached to the fire, and second, if there is, against whom.” While no one has been charged yet, according to O’Malley, it’s not out of the question. “The range of charges could be murder all the way to involuntary manslaughter,” she said in the press conference.“We won’t know until we finish our investigation.”

Senior Writer, Jezebel

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I understand the desire to find someone to blame, the city or the landlord (whose drug-induced rants are probably going to get him hanged), but I want to blame this one on our educational system. It teaches next to nothing about practicalities of life, everything from how banks work to not overloading electrical circuits. How many of us go to a party and check the exits, check the electrical use, look for fire extinguishers? I do this now, to some extent, but never when I was in my 20s. I was just at a party a few weeks ago where the band blew an electrical circuit. The hosts also had an extra fridge set up. It was a small house, and old. There was a fire risk, but there wasn’t a fire exit problem, but still. Artists, unfortunately, pride themselves on being anti-government, anti-regulations, anti-authority. Even if you blame the landlord, you can’t guarantee that the tenants will obey him, is the point. On some level, holding someone accountable is not a bad idea, but being out for his head isn’t going to change anything.

When I read the post about people wandering around unsecured construction sites, being high while working, kids wandering around, parties in firetrap spaces loaded with flammable junk, I just shook my head. It’s the anti-authoritarianism on top of ignorance that kills people. They don’t know and they won’t listen. I don’t know how to regulate that, but I think if we taught them safety basics while they were young, pre-teen, it would sink in better than merely enforcing codes that many in the arts community neither know nor care about.