An Oakland warehouse fire has left at least 33 people dead with numbers expected to rise in the coming days as firefighters work tirelessly to pull the remains of victims from the rubble. However, as victims names are being released by fire officials, others are looking for answers as to how so many lives could be lost in the deadliest fire the country has seen in over a decade.
While many believe that warehouse owner Derick Ion should be held accountable for operating an illegal residence and party venue, others are blaming the Oakland housing crisis for the incident noting that many artists had nowhere else to live due to inflated rental prices in the area. Wear Your Voice Magazine, a feminist media group, notes that the Oakland housing crisis may have played a part in the incident.
The publication notes that many in the art collective may have had no other place to go which left them being forced to choose between living in an unsafe building or living on the streets. It was pointed out that Oakland is listed as one of the top four cities with the highest rental rates in the country with one bedroom residences going for an average of $2,190 per month. Similarly, two bedrooms homes rent for an average of $2,550 per month.
For many artists, this amount is simply too much and they are forced into communal living arrangements that aren’t always up to safety code. Some have wondered why the property wasn’t up-to-code, but the publication says that answer is “simple.”
“Looking closely at the problem, the answer is pretty simple: they can’t afford it. And while the responsibility of staying up to code rested upon Ghost Ship’s owner Derick Ion, the artists living and working in the space had little to no choice but to choose between stable housing and their own safety.”
While the housing crisis is obviously a real issue in Oakland, not everyone in the arts community is in agreement that it contributed to the Ghost Ship fire deaths. Many artists in the area commented on the article noting that while many artists do struggle to pay the bills, Derick Ion should be solely blamed for this incident. One man claiming to be a former resident of the warehouse noted that the entire building was completely unsafe and that people often offered to help make the space more livable and safe. He goes on to say that Ion should also be held accountable for the fact he was throwing paid parties at the venue without properly ensuring the safety of those in attendance.
“I understand the housing crisis is serious in Oakland, especially for artists, but Derick built this deathtrap and threw parties when no one lived there but him and his family. Please do not excuse this man nor his neglect.”
Still others pointed out that the installation of fire alarms, which fire officials say were not working in the building at the time of the fire, is a low cost fire safety measure that the owner could have provided. Likewise, fire extinguishers could have also been placed in the building.
“This could have been avoided or at the very least less of a tragedy for under $200. Don’t blame the housing crisis. Blame the selfish, irresponsible tweakers running the place.”
Meanwhile, many have taken issue with the fact that the warehouse owner seemed more concerned about losing his material possessions than the dozens of lives lost in the horrific fire. TMZ reports that the Ghost Ship owner is being heavily criticized for comments he made on Facebook shortly after the fire.
“Everything I have worked so hard for is gone. Blessed that my children and Micah were at a hotel safe and sounds…it’s as if I have awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope….to be standing now in poverty of self worth.”
The backlash was quick when many who lost loved ones in the fire took to the page to note that material objects should not be the concern now and that they hoped he was charged with manslaughter for operating a “death trap.”
What do you think about the idea that the Oakland warehouse fire was the result of the housing crisis? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Josh Edelson/AP Images]