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Inside Oakland Ghost Ship Warehouse Before the Fire

Before the tragic fire that took the lives of at least three dozen people, collective amassed a bunch of oddities in the unusual space

Oakland Ghostship Fire Rave Party

Oakland Ghostship

The warehouse located at 1305 31st Avenue in Oakland, California was home to the Ghost Ship collective. A safe space for many who lived there – including artists, poets, musicians – it went up in flames on Friday in a tragic accident that took the lives of at least 36 people. Of these victims, 11 have been identified, with authorities sharing the names of seven people: Cash Askew, 22, David Cline, 23, Travis Hough, 35, Donna Kellogg, 32, Sara Hoda, 30, Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32 and Nick Gomez-Hall, 25. The name of an eighth victim, a 17-year-old boy, was withheld because of his age.

As can be seen in photos from before the fire, the building contained a large collection of oddities and confusing structures. Oakland Fire Department Chief Teresa Deloach Reed described the building as being "like a maze."

Oakland Ghostship

Safe Haven for Artists

For many, Ghost Ship served as an important safe haven for artists in the area against the backdrop of an increasingly more expensive, gentrified neighborhood. "People are desperate for places," executive director of Gray Area Foundation for the Arts Josette Melchor told CNN. "It's one of those things where you don't want to report something you see because you know how hard it is for people to find spaces."

Oakland Ghostship

Space Not Up to Code

Many regular attendees knew the space was not up to code, but dealt with the unsafe facilities that only hosted large parties to help pay for the building's rent.

Oakland Ghostship

 

Photographer Bob Mulé, a resident of the loft, recalled to Rolling Stone the scene of the warehouse as the fire began. "There's fire extinguishers all over the place, but of course, in the moment, it's like 'Where the fuck are they?'" The fire began on the first floor and spread to the second where the party was being held, trapping many of the attendees there. 

Oakland Ghostship

Beautiful Gathering Space, Destroyed

"It was a beautiful space that allowed artistic gatherings to happen," artist Chris Dunn told CNN. "There's not enough spaces for this kind of artistic expression of music and gathering."

Oakland Ghostship

 

The building only had two exits and no signs of sprinklers. Its last permitted use was as a warehouse before turning into a makeshift residence for roughly 20 artists.

Oakland Ghostship

 

Artist spaces like Ghost Ship exist in many urban communities where creatives are being priced out of neighborhoods. These places serve as "live-work" communes where those who live in the buildings often work at events or provide art to the community. 

Oakland Ghostship

 

Residents of these "live-work" artistic communes often live in fear of losing these spaces, further keeping them from reporting unsafe living conditions to the city which could potentially shut down the space if not up to code.

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