The site of one of the deadliest fires in Oakland that took away at least 30 lives during a night of music is being described as a twisted "labyrinth" jam-packed with clutter — and by some accounts, a "tinderbox" waiting to go up in flames.
Photographs from the Tumblr page of the warehouse, known as the "Oakland Ghost Ship," depict a maze-like structure, filled to the brim with wooden furniture, couches, colorful drapery, tapestries, Persian rugs, antiques and a host of other relics stacked floor-to-ceiling in several rooms. Photos also showed old pianos on the floor and promotions for weekly DJ events. A YouTube video shows an intimate performance inside the Ghost Ship, with young people dancing to electronic music.
"Everything was made of wood," said Oakland resident Darrell Ortis who visited the warehouse last year. He described the warehouse as having one staircase constructed out of rickety and unstable pieces of timber.
The Ghost Ship was also known as Satya Yuga, and was believed to be the home to an artists' collective. Various rooms throughout the two-story structure housed a collective of sculptures, musical instruments and acting props.
A Facebook book post by Derrick Ion, believed to be the leader of the yoga and arts collective, is under fire, with critics calling him out for lamenting over his own loss rather than the lives of those lost in the fire.
"Are you kidding? People died and you are lamenting you are poor," one Facebook user commented.
"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 if I have awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope… to be standing now in poverty of self worth," Ion wrote on his Facebook page at 2 a.m. Saturday.
His wife Micah Allison declined to talk to the Los Angeles Times about the living conditions in the house.
In a May 2014 Facebook post, Allison described the Ghost Ship as "the true crossroads of culture and revolution in Oakland."
"Within the walls of the most beautiful temple living tribute tied bound nailed erected and held together with love and blood. It is the center of the universe," she wrote. Allison describes herself as "Mother Superior" of Satya Yoga on her Facebook profile.
Satya Yuga's Facebook profile photo is that of Kali, the goddess of destruction in Indian mythology. "An unprecedented fusion of earth home bomb bunker helter skelter spelunker shelters and indonesian straw huts rolling into valleys and down alleys," is how Satya Yuga describes itself on its Facebook page. At least one Facebook user has demanded the page be taken down in light of what happened.
In Hinduism, Yuga is an era, within a four-age cycle, with a complete Yuga starting with Satya.
A one-star Yelp review for the collective by Oakland resident Alan R. detailed a discrepancy with Ion over a booking fee of an event in 2015. 'Owner Derick Ion should not be trusted," the review said. The same reviewer described the Ghost Ship as a "death trap" in a Yellow Pages review. "One incident, and anybody unfortunate enough to be inside will be trapped in a mountain of trash and improvised construction," the review said.
Officials are under the impression that the building's residents were living illegally in the structure, although it was permitted for use only as a warehouse.
Investigators were also unable to locate smoke alarms or sprinklers inside the now-caved in building located at 1315 31st Avenue, Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said.
"One of the issues," Reed said, was that the building had only "one way up and down from the second floor and it’s my understanding that stairwell was kind of like a makeshift, that they put it together with pallets."
Friday night's blaze is not the first time the building has been under the spotlight. The Oakland Planning and Building Department launched an investigation into the habitability of the warehouse less than a month ago, citing an "illegal interior building structure."
Property records show the warehouse is owned by a trust created by Chor N Ng. Records show Ng, either individually or through the trust, also owns more than a dozen other buildings in Oakland, San Francisco and Santa Clara.
On Saturday, the building owners had no comment, saying: "I'm sorry but we do not have any comment, we are also trying to figure out what's going on like everyone else."