‘No Final Determination:' ATF on Deadly Oakland Warehouse Fire

"We owe you nothing but than to do our very best," Alameda County District Attorney says

While the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is examining whether the "electrical system" could have been the cause of the deadly Oakland warehouse blaze, a special agent said the "analysis will continue."

"At this time, there is no final determination" as to what caused the deadliest blaze in 13 years to rip through an Oakland warehouse, killing 36 people, ATF Special Agent in Charge Jill Snyder said Tuesday at a news conference.

Of course, Snyder added, the electrical system inside the artist's collective nicknamed the Ghost Shop will be looked at as a possible source of the blaze, just as other factors will be. ATF officials have said they ruled out arson and a refrigerator that were the focus of their attention last week.

As of Tuesday, Snyder said the ATF concluded the federal agency's part of the investigation. And now, she said, "all the findings" will be turned over to the Oakland Fire Department and the Almeda County District Attorney's office.

At the news conference, Almeda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley reiterated that her office continues to pour over interviews, evidence and other elements in what is now an "active" criminal investigation. Deputy District Attorney David Lim will be placed in charge.

O'Malley vowed to come up with a fair and just solution for the families who lost their loved ones in the Dec. 2 fire, which tore through the building at 1305 E. 31st Ave. at 11:30 p.m.

"We will identify what we can from the evidence presented," O'Malley said, noting her office has already conducted many interviews. "We will be thorough, methodical and calculated. We owe you nothing but than to do our very best."

The electronic dance party had attracted a gathering of artists and musicians inside the warehouse, which was illegally converted into an artist's enclave and living quarters. Artists have long complained that they can't afford the rents in the Bay Area, and have lived in illegal and unsafe quarters to be able to survive. 

The 36 victims ranged in age from 17 to 61.

Guests and neighbors who visited the warehouse over the years, owned by the Ng trust and run by a tenant named Derick Ion Almena, said it was full of art, wooden pieces, power strips, propane tanks and electrical wiring. The warehouse also had a makeshift staircase, which firefighters noted made exiting the party difficult for the guests. Some have told NBC Bay Area that they told Almena his living quarters were unsafe and that he should fix it; to which he only laughed.

In an interview with the "Today" show, Almena said that he is sorry for what happened, but would not say whether he thinks he should be held responsible for what happened.

More than 100 Red Cross volunteers were helping families of the victims and those displaced in the blaze. They said relatives of victims and those who may have lived at the Ghost Ship can call 510-595-4441.

Contact Us