Documents Show Ghost Ship Hazards Were Well-Known and Universally Ignored

Officials from nearly every department tasked with ensuring the safety of the public in Oakland were acutely aware of the hazards at the Ghost Ship warehouse before it caught fire and killed 36 people in December.

Newly-released documents show members of the police department, the fire department, and public works had visited the property 245 times since 1988, with most visits occurring after 2007. In nearly every instance, they turned a blind eye to the dreadful conditions that would eventually lead to widespread loss of life.

The 600 pages of recently-released documents contain some truly stunning revelations. In one report, a police officer responding to a complaint at the warehouse wrote that he “knew that there was an illegal rave at the facility.” For reasons that remain unclear, he never cited the operator.

In 2014, authorities responded to a case of arson outside the building. A firefighter was aghast when he took a glimpse inside the warehouse and saw the hazardous conditions. He reported it to the department’s fire prevention division, but nothing was ever done.

From 2014 on, authorities were being called to the Ghost Ship on what seems like a regular basis to respond to reports of drug use, child abuse, and domestic violence, typically involving the warehouse’s landlord. Each infraction was met with a slap on the wrist. Meanwhile, for over a decade, fire officials failed to conduct yearly inspections because they believed the property was “unoccupied,” despite all evidence to the contrary.

Media outlets could not reach the city’s fire chief Teresa Deloach Reed for questioning because she has taken leave amid the mounting criticism. Someone will have to answer for the failures. With 36 young lives needlessly extinguished, these questions aren’t going away any time soon.