As of writing this, 36 people have been confirmed dead in Friday's warehouse fire in Oakland and, according to city officials, that number is expected to increase. The facility's manager addressed the tragedy Saturday with an utterly tone deaf statement lamenting the loss of his hard work, without even mentioning the victims who lost their lives at his venue.
On Saturday morning, Ghost Ship operator Derick Ion Alemany wrote on Facebook: “Confirmed. Everything I worked so hard for is gone. Blessed that my children and Micah were at a hotel safe and sound. It’s as it I have woken from a dream filled with opulence and hope…to be standing now in poverty of self worth.”
The post drew intense criticisms. Users attacked Ion for his insensitivity. One offered a sorry for "your stuff that served as the fuel that burned our irreplaceable people to death." Another threatened his life. The venue was referred to as a "tinder box" and a "death trap." The comment has since been removed.
The Ghost Ship building, which has been described as "maze-like," was covered in rugs, tapestries, large-scale artworks and wooden structures and the fire spread quickly. There was only one stairway. The cause of the fire is still undetermined. You can read the harrowing first-hand accounts as they emerge.
Local promoter and record label owner Nihar Bhatt, who escaped the fire, told the East Bay Express that “several people told [him] before this that they were thinking of calling out [Ghost Ship] for being unsafe, for being a fire hazard." "I think they bit their tongues," he said, "because we desperately need places to gather.”
The fire has initiated an important discussion within music communities worldwide about alternative venue spaces. As Bhatt told the newspaper, the underground music scene isn't to blame: these DIY and illegal venues are one of very few inclusive places for marginalized people. Too often, one safety is traded for another.