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California warehouse had many city visits before deadly fire: documents

By Curtis Skinner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Officials from several Oakland, California agencies made dozens of visits to the warehouse where a fire killed 36 people last year, including police who responded to a rave there a year earlier, according to city documents released on Wednesday.

The documents were released roughly two months after the deadly blaze raced through a weekend dance party at the so-called Ghost Ship warehouse. The city has been criticized for not doing more to prevent such a fire at the troubled location and for not providing relevant documents in a timely fashion.

The city released hundreds of pages of documents dating back more than a decade related to the warehouse covering visits, complaints and calls for service received by police, fire department personnel, building inspectors and public works officials.

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One record showed that early on the morning of March 1, 2015, an Oakland Police officer responded to an illegal rave with drug and alcohol sales at the warehouse. The record describes the shutting down of the rave, but the reporting officer said he left without issuing any citations.

"Transparency is critical. Our impacted community deserves to know all the facts about this tragedy," Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement on Wednesday.

The documents also showed the city's fire department had not conducted any "elective commercial inspections" of the location since at least 2010. The city could not be immediately reached on Wednesday to elaborate on the fire inspection records.

The city's planning and building department had 49 records dating from 2004 to 2016 related to complaints as well as code enforcement or building inspections for the warehouse and the adjacent vacant lot, according to the release.

An official with the department, facing questions from reporters in December, said code enforcement personnel had not physically entered the building in 30 years.

Those who spent time in the artists' cooperative known as the Ghost Ship said potential code violations would have been apparent to anyone entering the building, which was not permitted for residence.

Living quarters with narrow, winding halls were built from scrap materials, including highly flammable wooden pallets. Nails were exposed, plumbing improvised and a makeshift stairway to the second floor was extremely hazardous, they said.

Several other police reports included in the release indicated that officers had dealt with individuals who, well before the deadly blaze, said they were living at the warehouse.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by David Gregorio)

 
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