Artist: In Latest Oakland Warehouse Fire, People Lived There

While the city of Oakland waits for the verdict in the high-profile Ghost Ship trial, some want to know what the city of Oakland has learned from the tragedy.

Two weeks ago, another artist warehouse in East Oakland went up in flames. An artist who worked there said people were unlawfully living in there too.

The latest fire tore up about a third of the art collective’s warehouse. No one was injured, but seven artists lost their work spaces, meaning their equipment and their work is somewhere in the pile of ashes.

One of those artists, Heather Lentz of Oakland, goes by the nickname "Welder Girl." Any professional welder would know they need a safe space and special equipment to create. So when Lentz stumbled upon Moxy two years ago.

"It was like a godsend to me," she said.

The industrial building in Oakland's Jingletown neighborhood was home to an art collective that rented out studio spaces to dozens of artists.

"It was a place that we could hang out, do our art, do our businesses," Lentz said, adding that with so much combustible material around, the warehouse operators were pretty strict about open walkways and fire exits. But, "there were some people living in there."

That’s not what Oakland Fire Department officials were told on the morning of Aug. 9, when a large fire broke out in the warehouse.

"It’s not a live-work space. No one lives there," Nick Luby, Oakland’s deputy fire chief, told the media.

On Moxy’s website, the art collective says no one was allowed to live in the building, and there were strict rules regarding fire hazards.

"It feels hard for me to talk about because I have been threatened for me to stay quiet about this type of thing," Lentz said.

Lentz said Bay Area artists need affordable studio spaces that are up to code. She’s now driving for Uber to try to come up with the $20,000 needed to get her business back up and running.

"It was everything that I worked for, all my life, just gone up in flames," she said.

Those who wish to help Lentz, can do so on a GoFundMe page. The campaign had raised about $2,700 as of Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, the city’s building and planning department says the warehouse passed an inspection last April.

The executive director of the company that owns the warehouse did not respond to requests for comment.

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