Death toll hits 36 in Oakland fire, casualties expected to rise

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    Mon, Dec 5, 2016, 17:38
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  • The city also released names of seven of the deceased, and began an investigation into the cause.
  • Death toll hits 36 in Oakland fire, casualties expected to rise image
  • The death toll for the fire at Friday's 100% Silk show has risen to 36, according to city officials. Firefighters have been digging through the ruins of the live-work artist warehouse known as the Ghost Ship, where a fire broke out during a show on Friday night. They're calling it one of the worst fires in modern California history. As of Monday morning, eight casualties had been identified, including one 17-year-old whose name has been withheld by officials. The other seven were identified as Cash Askew, 22, David Cline, 35, Donna Kellogg, 32, Travis Hough, 35, all of Oakland; Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, of Coronado; Sara Hoda, 30, of Walnut Creek; and Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward. Two of the 100% Silk artists who were on Friday night's bill—Nackt, AKA Johnny Igaz, and Cherushii, AKA Chelsea Faith Dolan—are still missing. Firefighters expect the death toll to rise as they continue their search, which could last for days more, officials said at a press conference. The search has been delayed by unstable conditions inside the warehouse. The building was already under scrutiny by city investigators due to complaints about health and safety issues, the LA Times reports. While it was cleared for use as a warehouse, it was not cleared for residential use or for public events. Former residents describe the building—which lacked sprinklers and fire alarms—as a "death trap" cluttered with furniture, stacks of wood, trailers and appliances. The New York Times reports that renters were paying around $700 per month for spaces with sporadic heat and electricity, and speculated that the living conditions are a direct result of the city's housing crisis. One former resident claimed that the master tenant, Derick Ion Almena, had a history of harassing renters with violent threats. Firefighters still haven't identified a cause for the fire, though Oakland police have already begun to investigate possible criminal activity that could be behind it. One longtime Oakland resident, who has spent decades in informal live-work artist spaces such as the Ghost Ship, responded with an editorial for KQED called "It Could Have Been Any Of Us." NYC-based DJ and producer BEARCAT has organized a fundraiser at Sisters in Brooklyn this Wednesday, December 7th. Venus X, Via App, Riobamba and SHYBOI are among the artists scheduled to play. All the info for that is here. A number of artists and friends have responded on social media. Many pointed out that artists often gravitate to these informal spaces because they are pushed out of city centers by rent inflation.