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California Warehouse Fire
4

California Warehouse Fire

RE: California Warehouse Fire

I suspect all of that and more.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Not an engineering disaster, except in the sense that there was no engineering. Definitely a failure of local government, as the City had knowledge of the situation.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Agreed. Pretty amazing how many times this happens. You'd think the various inspectors/fire departments would 'get it' and descend on these places the day they hear about them. "Could not gain access" Cripes.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

I suspect it's an incremental, procedural issue. Someone needs to make the enforcement agency aware of a problem. The enforcement agency visits, and requires corrective actions. But due to politics, you can't require these actions to happen instantly. The owner of the property might or might not perform the actions. Or maybe they half way perform the actions. So the agency revisits and if the actions aren't complete, possibly order the property locked up. And the owner or his tenants pry off the locks. The police are stretched thin, keeping the peace, with building violations as a minor priority.
If you would of said at any time, "...this building is going to kill 40 people.." of course actions would immediately happen. But the problem with codes and code enforcement is that several (bad) circumstances need to happen before they come into play. In this case, you had code violations, then a party, then a fire and then you need egress and fire protection.
We engineers and architects do a pretty good job of designing and avoiding 75% of potential tragedies. But diligent code enforcement is required to avoid another 20%. And maybe this can go up to 24%. But bad stuff happens. People bring their charcoal grill in their apartment to barbecue. You can't regulate stupid.
Add to that that certain very influential people have given a bad name to regulation (which codes and code enforcement are) and are attempting to strangle it at every turn. In my town, there were newspaper editorials a few years ago because some poor small business (keyword) couldn't expand (another keyword) without a building permit. So building permits are bad.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Yes, but it is mildly ironic that this happened in Oakland, CA, of all places where government power, regulation and control are the mantra of the community.

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RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
Jed
Deathtol currently at 24, and may be c!mining.

Dim

RE: California Warehouse Fire

If the owner of the building only cares that someone is paying the rent, and the renters are happy to have a space to use, and the neighbors don't consider activities there to be any of their business, and there aren't windows to let anyone outside see what's going on, there might not ever be a complaint to the local building department, so they're none the wiser of the fire hazard that the tenants (who aren't knowledgable) have brought upon themselves.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

I've tied to instill a 'situational awareness' component in my kids, with a fundamental one of crowd filled spaces and the inherent danger they can represent. It has included assessing fire escape(s). I hope I've been successful enough that they'd avoid these kinds of deathtraps.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Brian,
According to news reports, the City did know.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
Toll is up to 33... and, maybe not done yet.

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Hard questions will confront not only the landowner and the sponsors of the party, but of the city regulators who did not take more affirmative action to halt the violations once and for all. City inspectors reportedly visited the site in response to complaints about its illegal residential use, but were unable to gain entry. City leaders must demand to know: Why not?

Read this .... City officials and fire marshals denied entrance to this obvious artsy firetrap full of fuel .....

http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/arti...

Somebody employed by the city was collecting their paycheck but not doing their job !!!!

How many more of these "Ghost Ships" are there in other cities ???

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Apparently the " Makeshift Stairwell " was a stack of old pallets arranged in the shape of a staircase.
B.E.

You are judged not by what you know, but by what you can do.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Do the city inspectors have the authority to gain access by whatever means are necessary?

Follow-up question modified by inserting three words. Do the city inspectors have the authority to gain access to your house by whatever means are necessary?

And to forestall a related question: Do the city inspectors have the authority to gain access to a place of business by whatever means are necessary?

In my part of the world, doing that would require getting a warrant and that would require probable cause to be shown, but I would think that if a noisy party were in progress, it ought to be evident from outside, which ought to be probable cause, and the cops ought to have been able to get a warrant pretty quickly.

Can't prevent stupid ... if the building's occupants had been quiet about what they were doing, so as not to arouse suspicion from outside, they could easily have created this fire hazard without having drawn attention to it and the same thing could have happened - but if the news report is accurate that the city knew about the problem, someone didn't do their job.

I know someone who lived in an upstairs balcony in his workshop for several years.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

I'm sure the building inspector visit and the noisy party were not in the same time frame.
It takes time to get a warrant for entry. Then you have to have the right authorities available to force entry. Unless the danger is imminent, I'm sure that the procedures are maddeningly slow.
This will be fixed for a while in Oakland. Then eventually things will go back to the status quo.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Why do you guys think a city needs a warrant? There's no constitutional protection for companies - commercial sites. Most cities must approve any and all businesses. They require Business Licenses that specify exactly what the business can be. If there's any suspicion that the business is not within the license they can show up to inspect without a warrant to confirm only the "licensed" business is occurring. If it's not, they can revoke the license and the business is toast. Same goes for people illegally living in a commercial space. Our city decided it wanted a quick injection of money so they decided the fire marshal had to inspect every last business and, oh yeah, charge everyone $70 for the inspection. No choice no warrant.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

For years the owners and executives of large corporations have been trying, with some success ('Citizens United' is just one example), to get corporations treated as 'people' under the Constitution. I've read items where there's been talk of corporations gaining rights under the 4th (protections against unreasonable search and seizure) and the 5th (protection against self incrimination) Amendments. This would cover everything from stopping required disclosures for the SEC to revealing hazards to the EPA or unsafe working conditions to the Labor department, etc.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Because constitutional protection don't stop because you don't like companies. A refusal of entry does not stop the city from taking action, an inspection warrant is not difficult to obtain. Penalties are assessed each day a violation occurs, which is no small amount. A building owner who does not correct deficiencies can find themselves with a bill for the demolition of the building and no building. The city has more than enough tools to enforce the building code. It could be that the building was not in compliance, then brought into compliance and then in November which into non-compliance. Not enough information to tell if the city screwed up as well.

CA CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE
SECTION 1822.50-1822.60

1822.50. An inspection warrant is an order, in writing, in the name
of the people, signed by a judge of a court of record, directed to a
state or local official, commanding him to conduct any inspection
required or authorized by state or local law or regulation relating
to building, fire, safety, plumbing, electrical, health, labor, or
zoning.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

3
You might think that the city would do something, but then why are these cites large declaring areas as sanctuaries for illegals and others. With these sorts of "anything goes" attitudes, why would be be surprised that they don't enforce zoning ordinances. Expect a lot more catastrophes. Now talk is the state of California may be declaring the whole state a sanctuary. None of this be a surprise any more.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
From Reuters:

OAKLAND, Calif. Authorities in Oakland, California, said on Tuesday they do not expect the death toll from a blaze that engulfed a converted warehouse during a dance party to rise above 36, but could not rule it out as they continued picking through debris.

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Today the Oakland DA is considering murder charges.

Apparently a Guy and his Wife and 3 kids lived there acting as the Property Manager. He collected rents from 5 to $800/mo. He also collected a month's rent deposit and a one-time 'improvement' fee providing a list of things to be improved of which none were ever implemented. The place had limited access to reduce visitor surprises because when visitors came everyone had to go thru a Chinese Fire Drill of removing drying clothes and other things that gave evidence of people actually living in the otherwise only "art space".

An ex-tenant said that with dozens of extension cords running and draped everywhere she knew it was only a matter of time before the place went up and moved out as soon as she could.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
I suspect that there will be criminal charges against the building owner, the property manager and others. I also suspect that there will be a massive class action lawsuit against Oakland. Oakland has frozen access to public records.

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Poor Oakland. Such a quagmire.

Recall they had to go thru like 4 police chiefs in a couple of months. Some scandal would occur and each would resign because, "Oh, I was maybe involved with the underage prostitute too", kind of debacles.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

The fact that Oakland Fire Department did not deal with this raises some serious questions. Based on the occupancy and the conditions, I'm fairly sure fire companies responded to one or medical emergencies based on the use and character of the occupancy. If an Engine or Ladder is dispatched because of a 9-1-1 call, CA Title 29 gives the FD the authority to enter the building. Now the primary responsibility during an EMS incident is patient care and either treatment or refusal by the patient. However, as a Company Officer, situational awareness would tell one that the issues in this building warranted an inspection and pursuing this using the means of egress and occupancy change provisions in the California Fire Code.

The other disturbing element is that the CA agency for child protected removed 3 different children from 3 different families in the previous 24 months. That fact alone confirms the building was a Residential use and would have dictated automatic sprinkler protection per 2012 IBC and the 2012 IFC.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
Looking bad for Oakland

From the AP, "The illegally occupied Oakland warehouse where dozens of partygoers perished in a blaze does not appear in a database fire inspectors use to schedule inspections and may never have been checked for fire hazards, a firefighter with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press."

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Yep. They're covering up something. It needs to be understood 'why' the city methodically seems to have worked fairly hard to not believe in "The Ghost" after many fire visits, police visits, and neighborhood complaints.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

And after the flames died down and the ashes settled the great city of Oakland declared a "State of Emergency." Agreed what happened was terrible. But really? One building burns down and it's a State of Emergency.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Perhaps they were just anticipating all of the other disasters awaiting their citizens as a result of the inept city agencies.

John R. Baker, P.E. (ret)
EX-Product 'Evangelist'
Irvine, CA
Siemens PLM:
UG/NX Museum:

The secret of life is not finding someone to live with
It's finding someone you can't live without

RE: California Warehouse Fire

More than likely it is simply a way for them to get more money from state coffers and allowable in some rule book because of the number of fatalities. No doubt the massive forensic 'dig' did cost more than a 'city' amount. Course it's entirely the city's fault it ultimately was allowed to occur.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Quote (itsmoked)

Course it's entirely the city's fault it ultimately was allowed to occur.
In order of decreasing responsibility:
the owner;
the master tenants;
the residents;
the people at the party;
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
the city.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Yes, that's why I said "allowed [it] to occur", others certainly caused it.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
Spartan... we'll wait and see where the lawyers place the City... likely closer to the top... just before owner...

I'm surprised a class action has not yet commenced.

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Sort of depends if the owner had asked for an inspection of the wiring, or had a permit.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

itsmoked,

I clicked on MJCronin's link, then I followed the link at the bottom of the page...

As Oakland arts scene thrived in industrial spaces, city fell short on monitoring

If I were a city employee, I would not be kicking peoples' doors in. I am not paid for it, trained for it, or equipped for it. It appears that Ghost Ship had a routine worked out to conceal inhabitants from official visitors. Perhaps this is the red flag that should tell people to not live there.

--
JHG

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Ahh yes, dik, the lawyers. I thought we were determining who was at fault here, not who had the most money wink

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
Cranky... maybe a little. Lawyers will be jumping through hoops to prove negligence on the part of the City... just a matter of time.

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
Spartan...a lot of stuff done today has nothing to do with engineering... but, minimising exposure to litigation. Nothing to do with right or wrong, correct or incorrect... I suspect the delay in laying charges is due to Oakland's own exposure...

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Spartan5,

The term today boys and girls is Joint and Several Liability. The city may not be anywhere near the most responsible party, but everyone else here sounds indigent. The city could wind up paying most of the settlement.

On the other hand, people either died, or they escaped. We do not have long term medical care or damage to expensive property.

About forty years ago, I worked part time as a security guard. I was checked out to see if I had a criminal record, I was fingerprinted, and that was it. If criminals had shown up at one of the construction sites or events I worked at, I would have called the police, then I would have retreated to a safe place. I had no training. I was not armed. I was not responsible for anything once I alerted authorities.

If you are a city inspector responding to complaints about garbage, you arrive at the site and see garbage, and you write a report. If they don't let you in the building, your choices are to kick the door in, or retreat. Almost certainly, you don't have the authority to use force. If the building is classified as a warehouse, the city has no duty of care.

--
JHG

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
Jan 24, 2017

From the Washington Post

According to Almena’s defense team’s investigation, the fire could not have started inside Ghost Ship because the electric power distribution to the warehouse originated from the adjacent building. The attorneys declined to name the expert who came up with the findings and only said that that person is “qualified by both education and experience.”

Records show that city officials were aware of possible code violations as early as November. Complaints filed with the city alleged blight around the building and illegal construction and residential use inside. A city inspector visited the warehouse not long before the fire to document the blight outside, but was unable to go in. An investigation into possible illegal housing was still pending when the fire happened.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Quote:

fire could not have started inside Ghost Ship because the electric power distribution to the warehouse originated from the adjacent building.

What a moronic statement!

So what, any electrical fire in any building was caused by the power company because the power originated outside the building? Sounds like good solid lawyer-speak.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
agreed... this apparently was from the engineered report for the 'landlord'. Some engineers will write anything for a buck.

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

I'm getting ready for retirement so I would need more than a buck.

I've never been offered a bribe, so how does one get into this sort of business? How does one put there name out there? Exactly how does this work?

The fact is laws were broken by the landlord, and he knew it. The fact that the city did not enforce the laws is a bad thing. But how many speeders have you seen that did not get tickets? Would that make it the states fault if they get into a crash? I could come up with more examples of state and local police not enforcing ALL the laws.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

cranky108, it helps if you know some lawyers and your mommy and daddy weren't married. Which might be the same subset.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Or maybe I don't know the right lawyers. Or maybe it was all that ethics training I've had.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
The City of Oakland hired a public relations firm, in a 6-month deal worth up to $90,000, to serve as official media consultants and spokespeople following the city’s deadly warehouse fire.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Don't want anyone to say anything dumb to the media, hire a PR firm that can't answer anything because they don't know anything and anything they say can't be held against you.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Let me say it again .....

HOW MANY OTHER GHOST SHIPS ARE OUT THERE ???

Yes, yes.... Lawyers are the servants of Satan .... but

Why cannot the lessons learned here be used to save possible future lives ???

There has to be other disasters waiting to happen in other West Coast Art enclaves ...

In the USA we pay more attention to the antics of half dressed Kardashians than to existing life safety codes...

MJCronin
Sr. Process Engineer

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
MJC... it's a financial thing...

RE: California Warehouse Fire

MJCronin,

Okay, you own a warehouse. The city is curious about what you have in there. Can they walk in whenever they want?

There is a community of arty types out there who are libertarians, and who want the government to stay out of whatever they are doing. The arguments, however valid they are, have been worked out. This is the USA. The person who does not want you in his warehouse may be armed.

--
JHG

RE: California Warehouse Fire

If they get a complaint, which would be the only reason "they" would get "curious," they could get a search warrant. But, as a commercial building, as supposed, I imagine they have additional powers, given that the "public" ostensibly has access.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: California Warehouse Fire

As I previously mentioned an inspection warrant is not difficult to obtain. Neither is having the building corrected, as the owner will be fined until deficiencies are corrected or the city demos the building on the owners dime.

CA CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE
SECTION 1822.50-1822.60

1822.50. An inspection warrant is an order, in writing, in the name
of the people, signed by a judge of a court of record, directed to a
state or local official, commanding him to conduct any inspection
required or authorized by state or local law or regulation relating
to building, fire, safety, plumbing, electrical, health, labor, or
zoning.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Some zoning laws have a purpose like public safety. How do you balance that with property rights?

If you live in a city, you have the right to vote on those regulations, or not. But so does everyone else. So accept the rules of the community.

The building owner is at fault for not looking out for the public safety of those living there.

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Property rights are nowhere near absolute; you, in effect, are renting the property from the government for the price of the property tax. Just try to see what happens when you don't pay said tax.

Since the recent eminent domain case in SCOTUS, the government can take your property from you, even if your property is not a blight, and even if the purpose is not for pure revitalization.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Yesterday an Oakland Slum apartment burned down costing several lives. Again, it looks like the Oakland Fire Department has failed the city and its inhabitants.

There were documented complaints to the city that there was garbage stacked in the hallways everywhere, holes thru floors, walls and ceilings, crack users in the attic, plugged toilets, heaps of garbage in the back yard, exposed wires, more than an inch of standing water on the first floor, and so many rats living in the place that one lady who escaped in her robe with only her purse at the 5AM fire said, "A least the rats are dead".

Oh, and the Fire Chief is retiring in a few weeks with her six figure pension.

Keith Cress
kcress - http://www.flaminsystems.com

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
Fire cause not determined, from the news, " Fire investigators were unable to determine what caused the blaze at an Oakland, California, warehouse that killed 36 people last December, according to a report released late Monday.

According to the report posted late on the city of Oakland's website, investigators cannot rule out an electrical failure, candles, incense, smoking material or an open flame as possible causes.

Investigators determined the blaze originated on a back corner on the ground floor of the two-story building but they couldn't pinpoint a cause because of the extensive fire damage."

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Odd that the fire dept. had no records of violations and that a report was "lost".

RE: California Warehouse Fire

(OP)
There should be other charges if the following is correct:

“It’s lost,” Serra said of the referral. “We attribute it to the fact that the local fire department was very friendly with our client… wanted to give him a pass.”

Also the Fire Captain should check to see how his one page report was sent up the channel...

Dik

RE: California Warehouse Fire

I had a government appeals board make some serious stupid mistakes within the last year. Then they "sanitized" the file to remove evidence of their mistakes. Now the government file is incomplete but the e-mails still exist in my files and in others files.
No record of the report? Convenient!

Bill
--------------------
"Why not the best?"
Jimmy Carter

RE: California Warehouse Fire

Early on, the section of the Fire Dept. that is charged with following up on hazards observed by firefighters in the course of their ordinary work, stated that the "computer program" that was suppose to track the files from field reports was deleting them wholesale when some other function in the software was performed. I don't believe it. The city of Oakland has a notorious history of staffing certain downstream departmental offices with "friends" who basically collect a pay check and do very little work. In this particular job, investigations are out of the office and who knows how long it will take..., Might have to go see a movie and wait for the property owner. Maybe wait with a girlfriend. Finish my patio. Go Fishing.

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