Mayor Libby Schaaf (C) speaks at a media event following a warehouse fire that has claimed the lives of at least thirty-three people on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California. The fire took place during a musical event late Friday night.

After a fire killed 36 people at an Oakland warehouse and artists’ collective known as the ‘Ghost Ship’ on Friday, the union representing Oakland and Alameda County firefighters has criticized the city for not having enough fire inspectors. An Alameda County civil grand jury report from 2014 shows the fire department failed to inspect over one-third of the city’s 11,000 commercial properties, and couldn’t gain access to a quarter of those they were sent to inspect. A recent staffing report shows four fire inspector positions, while funded, remain unfilled. Forum discusses the issues surrounding fire inspection in light of the deadly Ghost Ship fire.

Related Coverage:

Dan Robertson, president, I.A.F.F. Local 55, which represents firefighters from Oakland and Alameda Counties
Dan Brekke, blogger and online editor, KQED News


    Beside the fact this horrifying fire incident in Oakland shows the total failure of the fire department and city official to inspect this building for 30 years, that incident must us put lots of blame on the extreme rise in housing across the Bay Area where innocent people put their life on the line to get cheaper housing to put roof above their heads and escape being homelessness…Shame on all of us to see that happen by being passive when hundreds of new giant construction of housing all over the place bet yet the cost of rents keep accelerating to near none affordable by more and more citizens due the corrupt influence by developers and giant slum mega landlords on the cities mayors including the ex con Tom Bates of Berkeley and Ed Lee of San Francisco.


    To all of the 36 innocent victims of the Oakland fire, you all were betrayed and scarified because of big money and greed that run the whole country, from city to state to the federal government……Rest in peace you all, and may God bless your soul as all of us we will always have you in our thoughts and memories.

  • Fred

    It seems to be a recurring theme in the Bay Area and American society for degenerates-with-steady-jobs, such as city employees and especially dirty cops, to view people who have less glamorous careers and possibly no careers at all, such as aspiring artists, as disposable degenerates.
    It’s a simple case of psychological projection.
    Mediocre people get city jobs because that is all they will ever be able to be half-good at. They are forever bitterly envious of people with more free will and more humanistic aspirations.
    So when it comes to protecting such people whom they envy, they find 10 ways to avoid it.

    Inspections? We don’ need no stinkin’ inspections. We are government banditos!

    • fakeanonymousguest

      The ghost ship was basically an unsanctioned homeless shelter. It probably would have passed inspection as a warehouse but not as a residential or event space. Tragic loss of life, but you get what you pay for…

      • Fred

        City employees should be required to spend at least 7 days per year sleeping on the street, and another 7 days sleeping in unsafe warehouses.
        Because they can see the poor as “the other” and have no idea how much WORK it is being poor, they can take a cynical attitude like yours while they sit on their fat butts in city offices.

      • Livegreen

        No, it wouldn’t have passed as a warehouse either. All warehouses must have sprinklers. That this building didn’t plays to a fundamental problem of the landlord, the notifications/obligations from the City (to the landlord), and lack of inspections of this by the City.

        • Sar Wash

          The renter and squatters, not the innocent owner, are guilty of murder.

  • Livegreen

    The root of the problem is that Oakland underfunds ALL basic City Services. Even after years of economic growth, Oakland still doesn’t fund (and even when it does) doesn’t staff, doesn’t recruit and doesn’t train the necessary personnel. It’s literally running from fire to fire. This has been going on for decades. The question is “Why can’t Oakland fund basic City Services to it’s citizens”?

  • fakeanonymousguest

    Firefighters sit idle most of the time. Why can’t some of these guys perform inspections?

  • Livegreen


  • Sar Wash

    We need a complete ban on sub-leasing by renters, an automatic eviction of any illegal renters, and inspections that notify owners in advance but do not provide a warning to renters.

    • Fred

      Until city employees know how difficult it is being poor, they will never sympathize with the poor.

      • Sar Wash

        The problem is not the city employees, it is the entitled squatters, illegal renters, and fake ‘artists’ who refuse to get a real job or pay for a real home.

        • Jon Latimer

          You have no idea what you’re talking about Sar. This is an absolutely absurd narrative your pitching, completely insensitive to the communities affected by this tragedy, and is literally the worst thing you could do to address the needs of Oakland’s residents. It’s as if you TRYING to increase the homeless population, encouraging more displacement, aiding gentrification. You should be ashamed of your statements, as they clearly demonstrate how little you know (or care) about art, culture, class and the housing crisis.

        • Fred

          Oh right, the people who died are fake, but you’re genuine? Maybe a genuine a-hole?

    • De Blo


  • Robert Thomas

    For about twenty-five years, I’ve been involved with directing an association that is subject to periodic fire agency inspection and compliance requirements for an elaborate set of dwellings, including over a hundred multi-dwelling homes, most equipped with fire sprinklers. I have decades of experience with such professionals: Marshals, Deputy Marshals, Battalion Chiefs and Fire Prevention Specialists of our municipal fire department.

    Our fire prevention specialists have been VERY sharp-eyed and very professional and have always worked closely in consort with the Battalion Chief. But the FPSs are NOT cops. If they didn’t receive responsible and enthusiastic cooperation from myself and other officers of our association, they would not succeed in assuring the safe function of our systems and other compliances.

    However, at least in the case of dwellings, our FPSs and other department leaders also have the power to order that a “fire watch” be posted – this is a twenty-four-hour-a-day person deployed on-site – if their demands are ignored, at our association’s cost and subject to liens and other financial penalties that are pursued as required. I am surprised if the city of Oakland is actually at all different in this way.

    In all, the Santa Clara FD is about the most responsible and reasonable – and simultaneously, intractable – municipal agency I’ve had to deal with.

  • MattQ

    The loss of life in this fire was truly tragic.

    But sadly no amount of top-down government control can stop or solve the ills created by human greed, stupidity, and bad behavior. Economic signals are the only ones that work to guide human behavior. The owner of that warehouse needs to be held responsible and loose his financial liberty (one million per life lost?) and physical freedom (one year imprisoned per life lost?).

    The institutionalized inefficiencies, ineptitude, and indifference baked into all city services (no matter the city) will always limit what a city will and can do for its people. Instead it seems that people must be incentivised to do good for themselves by knowing that getting caught doing bad comes with an extremely high penalty. As long as irrational desperation and spite are controlled for, sufficiently high penalties should be successful in encouraging people to manage their own affairs correctly and harmoniously with others.

    • Sar Wash

      The owner was innocent. It was the renter and squatters who are 100% responsible. The renter lied to the innocent owner and stated that no one was living in the space.

  • De Blo

    At a minimum, we need to evict anyone living in a space that is not zoned residential and whose name is not on a formal lease and ban them from renting anywhere in the future. This is the only way to honor the innocent victims of this renter and his squatters.

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Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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