Oakland warehouse fire: Defense attorney says fire started next door

OAKLAND (KTVU) -- The defense team for the operator of the Ghost Ship warehouse released a report Monday that alleges that the fire that gutted an Oakland warehouse last month and killed 36 people started at a building next door.

Lawyers for Derick Ion Almena released a press release Monday afternoon saying they have received a "reliable scientific report" which indicates the origin of the blaze was at an adjacent structure and not inside the Fruitvale District warehouse. 

"Such should reasonably foreclose any criminal negligence charges against Mr. Almena," the statement said. "Recall that the ATF could not conclude where the fire originate. The reasonable doubt here is overwhelming."

>>>>>To see the full defense attorney statement: Click here

Almena, 46, was the master tenant at the Ghost Ship warehouse when the blaze occurred.  His attorneys, Tony Serra, Jeffrey Krasnoff and Kyndra Miller, have previously said that Almena did not engage in criminal misconduct and blamed the fire on government agencies.

The Dec. 2, 2016 fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse killed 36 people and injured several others and now ranks as one of the state's most deadly fires.  The blaze broke out at the two-story warehouse, located at 1305 31st Avenue, around 11:30 p.m. during an underground party. Several people were using the building as a live/work space.

"The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Oakland Fire Department are collaborating on a comprehensive investigation of the 31st Avenue warehouse fire," wrote Karen Boyd, a spokeswoman for the city of Oakland, Monday evening. "The investigation will yield a report that addresses the cause and origin of the fire. That report will be forwarded to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office as part of the ongoing criminal investigation. It’s premature to speculate about the origin of the fire until all investigations are complete." 

No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the fire at the warehouse and investigators still have not publicly identified the cause of the blaze. At least one civil lawsuit has been filed against the city and some event organizers over alleged negligence that led to the blaze.  

The 11-page document by Almena's lawyers raise questions about the source of electricity to the building and ask if inadequate wiring played a role in the fire. 

The attorney's document also includes pictures, one of which shows a fire seen on an adjacent building.

  • Jason McCarty, 35
  • Wolfgang Renner, 61
  • Billy Dixon, 35, of Oakland
  • Johnny Igaz, 34 of Oakland
  • Amanda Kershaw, 34, of San Francisco
  • Ara Jo, 29, of Oakland
  • Griffin Madden, 23, of Berkeley
  • Vanessa Plotkin, 21, of Lakewood
  • Hanna Ruax, 32, of Finland
  • Nicole Siegrist, 29, of Oakland
  • Alex Vega, 22, from San Bruno
  • Cash Askew, 22, of Oakland
  • Matthew Bohlka also known as Em Bohlka, 33, of Oakland
  • David Cline, 24, of Oakland
  • Micah Danemayer. 28, of Oakland
  • Alex Ghassan, 35, of Oakland
  • Travis Hough, 35, of Oakland
  • Donna Kellogg, 32, of Oakland
  • Edmond Lapine, 34, of Oakland
  • Benjamin Runnels, 32, of Oakland
  • Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, 31, of Oakland
  • Chelsea Dolan, 33, of San Francisco
  • Nick Gomez-Hall, 25 of Coronado
  • Michela Gregory, 20, of South San Francisco
  • Sara Hoda, 30, of Walnut Creek
  • Jennifer Morris, 21, of Foster City
  • Justin Fritz of Berkeley also known as Feral Pines
  • Draven McGill, 17
  • Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward
  • Barrett Clark, 35, of Oakland
  • Michele Sylvan, 37, of Oakland
  • Nicholas Walrath, 31, of Oakland
  • Peter Wadsworth, 38, of Oakland
  • Jonathan Bernbaum, 34, of Berkeley
  • Jennifer Mendiola, 35, of Oakland
  • Joseph Matlock, 36, of Oakland

RELATED COVERAGE

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Derick Ion Almena as the owner of the Ghost Ship warehouse. The correction has been made. 

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