Oakland Warehouse Went 30 Years Without Inspection
But witnesses say fire officials, police had been inside
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2016 10:40 AM CST
The inside of the Ghost Ship warehouse following the blaze.   (Alameda County Sheriff's Office)
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(Newser) – Officials say they couldn't have designed "an equally flammable place" as the Oakland warehouse where 36 people died in California's deadliest structure blaze in more than a century—but Oakland's planning director says inspectors had no idea. Darin Ranelletti says inspectors hadn't stepped foot in the building in 30 years, though they'd responded to complaints regarding the exterior—including piles of trash and graffiti—as recently as last month, per the San Francisco Chronicle. Ranelletti says an inspector issued a notice of violation on Nov. 18, but couldn't gain entry to the property. It's unclear why, though he notes a warrant is needed without compliance from the property owner. But if inspectors didn't see the inside of the property, former tenants, visitors, and neighbors say police and fire officials certainly did.

They say fire officials had entered the building at least twice in the last two and a half years—Oakland's fire chief couldn't confirm the visits, per CNN—while police officers went inside at least six times, reports Reuters. Police reports make note of the visits, which witnesses say revealed fire hazards, but the president of the Oakland Police Officers' Association says it's "ludicrous" to expect police to be "responsible for code enforcement." Officials believe the fire started on the first floor and reached stairwells leading to the second floor before occupants above had any idea; there were no smoke alarms. Says the director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services: "It's excruciating to walk through, to possibly relive those last moments when persons knew there was a fire and there was no way out."

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