East Oakland Businesses Struggling in Wake of Deadly Warehouse Fire

A tragic fire in an East Oakland warehouse killed 36 party goers Friday and brought many surrounding businesses to a near standstill.

It’s been nearly five days since the three-alarm fire destroyed the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse, but some Fruitvale neighborhood businesses are still unable to open their doors. Others have seen their steady stream of customers slow down considerably.

Business owners told NBC Bay Area that their hearts go out to the victims and their families. In the face of traffic diversions, search and recovery crews, and investigators, however, they are now struggling to make ends meet, they admitted.

“Actually, I'm lucky I have one client right now, because they've been calling us, but it's impossible for them to drive. There's no parking,” said Margarita Rodriguez, who owns an insurance office.

The restaurant next door on International Boulevard has also been quiet.

Mary Carmen said she came in for lunch, just to help. She said she knows the owners make their living from their business.

“It’s just a shock,” she said.

Meanwhile, Luis Dominguez owns a cell phone companies and said the ongoing closure has has left him unable to pay his staff.

“Last night we had a round table with our employees, keeping them up to date,” he said. When asked what he told them, Dominguez replied: “They might not have a job."

But help may be on the way. Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed declared a local state of emergency, which must now be ratified by the City Council on Dec. 8. The move, officials hope, will steer some emergency state and federal money to affected residents.

“It also allows local residents or businesses who have been impacted by this disaster to get funding to help them in regards to their businesses,” Reed said.

It remains unclear when the neighborhood’s business owners will see that money, but they are hopeful it will be soon.

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