At least one survivor of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire that killed at least 33 people say that a selfless man at the warehouse’s exit helped save his life. The man reportedly made it out of the warehouse, but instead of fleeing to safety like other concert-goers, he remained by the exit, yelling into the warehouse so others could follow his voice to the exit. One man said if it wasn’t for the mystery man remaining by the door yelling “This is the exit,” he likely would have never found the door.
The Daily Mail reports that a hero has emerged from the Oakland Ghost Ship art collective fire. A terrifying first-hand account of one survivor’s experience inside of the warehouse has revealed that one man’s forethought may have saved countless lives in the devastating fire. A Reddit user posted about his harrowing experience shortly after leaving the “death trap” venue. The man noted that the Ghost Ship, an art commune that was home to illegal parties and residency, was essentially a maze on the first floor with only one exit for the entire building. He reveals how he narrowly escaped death while at least 33 people died inside.
The man notes that he was initially upstairs when the fire broke out and says that at first, no one realized the severity of the situation. He says it wasn’t until a girl came up the stairs and said for everyone to go up higher due to the large amount of smoke below that he realized he was in trouble.
The Reddit user noted that he knew there was only one exit out of the building and immediately kicked into survival mode. He notes that instead of going up with everyone else, he tried to make his way down the makeshift stairs built from pallets. The stairs, he reports, were uneven, at portions more like a slide and at other sections almost thigh height. He notes with the smoke it was very difficult to get down and that only two people at a time could come or go. The man says he fell down the stairs and landed somewhere in the bottom room that he described as a “maze.” At this point, he says his directions were messed up and he could not locate the exit.
“So I was down there and I was having trouble finding the exit. At this point I genuinely thought I was going to die choking on smoke in these horrid conditions. Part of this was definitely because the lower level is like a f***ing maze. The stair room had three different exits and only one would have been the way to outside.”
He says he “genuinely thought” he was going to die and likely would have if it weren’t for a man that remained at the exit door to guide people from the building.
“I had only been down on the floor for 15ish seconds. (Even though it genuinely felt like I was down there for eternity.) As I was down there blindly trying to find the door to get out I got really lucky. Some dude who had already gotten out stood right by the exit with all the billowing smoke and was repeatedly yelling “this is the exit”‘. If he wasn’t there yelling I would have never found the exit and I probably would have died.”
The man goes on to explain that only two more people made it out of the inferno after him. He notes that when firefighters arrived about five minutes later, it appeared that they would be able to subdue the fire to the point they could help some of the people trapped inside. However, he says things took a sudden turn for the worst when an area on the second story of the building suddenly got “three times worse,” engulfing the entire second story and roof.
Death toll after fire at Oakland warehouse party rises to 33, say local officials https://t.co/TKhjAwcRnR
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) December 4, 2016
According to the Oakland fire officials, 33 people have been confirmed dead in the fire but they expect that number to rise as they claim they have only been able to look through one-fifth of the building. The survivor’s account seems to confirm what many in the Oakland art community and fire officials have said about the establishment leading up to the fire. Firefighters note that there was so much junk inside of the building that it was difficult to find the deceased amidst all the rubble and that the building did not have a permit to operate as a party location, venue or residence. In fact, the New York Times notes that the property was only zoned to be used as a warehouse.
According to ABC7, Derick Ion, who founded the Ghost Ship Artist Collective and ran it at the warehouse, reportedly lived in the warehouse with his family despite lacking a residential zoning. He also, reportedly, allowed other artists to live and stay on the property if they needed a space to live. The area was seen as a space for local artists to come and practice their art but served as a party venue of sorts at night. The Ghost Ship Artist Collective Facebook page even posted cover charges for attending music events at the warehouse even though it was only supposed to be used for warehousing purposes.
— RT (@RT_com) December 4, 2016
Many in the Oakland community say that the fire deaths could have been prevented had the owner of the warehouse taken safety measures seriously. ABC 7 notes that fire officials warned him about the fire hazard at the building, but he reportedly laughed off those warnings. It is currently unclear if Ion will face charges following the fire as firefighters are currently still trying to make their way through the rubble to secure the area and provide closure for the families of the missing.
What do you think of the Reddit user’s first-hand account of escaping the Oakland Ghost Ship fire?
[Featured Image by Jose Sanchez/AP Images]