Criminal charges filed against 2 men in fatal Oakland warehouse fire


One of the men arrested in the deadly Ghost Ship fire, Derick Almena, was transferred to the Alameda County Jail Monday night.

"On Dec. 2, flames raced through what authorities say was an illegal dance party on the second floor of the sprawling two-story building, which was permitted as a warehouse but leased to an artists' collective".

Relatives of half the victims who died in the fire have filed wrongful death lawsuits against Chor Nar Siu Ng, the building's owner, and Almena, who held the lease.

Almena, the operator of the warehouse, and Max Harris have each been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Alameda County has also been named in the suit. Almena reportedly made Harris the venue's "creative director", a job that included collecting rent, settling resident disputes, and acting as an intermediary between Almena and the warehouse's owners.

Reuters reported that in two years before the fire, Oakland officials had recieved "dozens" of complaints about the warehouse and had entered the building at least six times to find hazardous conditions.

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Prosecutors allege that the two knowingly created a fire hazard by allowing risky conditions-including a lack of fire extinguishers and flammable materials stacked "from floor to ceiling"-in the venue, conditions exacerbated by the fact that Almena allowed people to live there off the books".

"We believe that these charges represent no less than a miscarriage of justice and we are confident that this attempt to make a scapegoat out of our client will fail", attorneys Kyndra Miller, J. Tony Serra and Jeffrey Krasnoff said in a joint statement.

Harris is accused of renting the upstairs to a dance party promoter on the night of the fire.

They could face up to 39 years in prison if convicted of all the counts.

The master tenant of the Ghost Ship warehouse was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter Monday in connection with the deadly fire that killed three dozen concertgoers last December.

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Drenick said that because the building was largely consumed in the fire, the exact cause of the blaze is classified as undetermined and probably will remain that way. One of the two exits had even been blocked off completely.

The Alameda County district attorney says she will formally announce charges later in the day.

Harbison wrote that law enforcement officials responded to the warehouse for multiple calls for service but when officials asked Almena and Harris if people lived there, the two men "lied by insisting that no one lived in the warehouse". The source was not authorized to publicly discuss the charges and spoke on condition of anonymity. He is also accused of holding for-profit concerts at the warehouse, which was not licensed for entertainment.

File - In this December 3, 2016 file image from video provided by KGO-TV shows the Ghost Ship Warehouse after a fire swept through the Oakland, Calif., building.

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