Oakland city official says no one applied for residency permit at Ghost Ship warehouse

A principal engineer with Oakland's planning and building department testified on Monday that no one associated with the Ghost Ship warehouse, where a fire killed 36 people in 2016, ever applied for a permit to allow people to live at the building.

On the witness stand in the fourth week of the trial of Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena, 49, and creative director Max Harris, 29, David Harlan also said no one ever applied for an assembly permit that would allow music events and parties to be held at the building in the 1300 block of 31st Avenue.

Almena and Harris are charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each person who died in the fire during a music party late on the night of Dec. 2, 2016.

Prosecutors allege that Almena and Harris are criminally liable for the fire because there was no time and no way for the people at the party to escape since the warehouse didn't have important safeguards, such as fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and exit signs.

Prosecutors also say Almena and Harris violated the terms of the warehouse's lease by turning it into a living space where up to 25 people stayed, and hosting underground music parties.

But defense attorneys for Almena and Harris allege that the fire was an act of arson that Harris and Almena couldn't have prevented.

Earlier on Monday, carpenter Adam Kennon, who lived at the warehouse for about 18 months, testified that he was smoking just outside the warehouse's side door when he heard someone yell "fire."

Kennon said a few seconds later, "I hustled people out the side door" and ran to a nearby fire station to tell firefighters about the blaze.

Kennon said he was told that a fire crew already was on its way to fight the blaze but said that after he returned to the warehouse "it seemed like forever" before firefighters arrived.

Kennon said that when he lived at the warehouse he thought the building was safe and wasn't concerned about the potential for flames from all the woodwork there "until the last day," referring to the night of the fire.

"Hindsight is 20-20," he said.

Product designer Alexis Abrams-Bourke sobbed on the witness stand as she testified about trying to connect with her partner, Nicholas Walrath, on the night of the fire.

Abrams-Bourke said Walrath went to the party at the warehouse but she decided to stay home.

She said that 11:25 p.m. that night, Walrath sent his two final text messages: "I love you" and "Fire."