OAKLAND (CBS SF) – With recently released chest cam footage from an Oakland police officer providing the latest proof the city was well-aware of problems at the Ghost Ship warehouse almost two years before the fatal fire there, questions loomed for Oakland officials.
Principle among them: What exactly has changed since the deadly fire that took 36 lives last December?
In the body camera video that surfaced this week, Officer Hector Chavez is very specific about his plans after busting a music promoter at the Ghost Ship.
“I will report this to the city. I had a person telling me you guys are charging 25 bucks to get in. So I’d imagine you don’t have a permit,” Chavez is heard saying in the video. “So I will be talking to the city. And we’ll be dealing with the place.”
But unfortunately, this was just one of dozens of opportunities to shut down the Ghost Ship warehouse the city missed.
The police department never followed up or sent the report to building inspectors because, back then, it was considered a low-priority infraction.
The Ghost Ship Fire changed that policy. Now officers send reports of unpermitted events and buildings to a special unit and alert their supervisors.
The city has also promised better communication between fire and building departments by using a computer reporting system.
But that system is still not ready and could take another three to six months to go online.
The mayor also budgeted more money for the next two years to hire 12 fire inspectors and six building inspectors. So far, eight fire inspectors have been hired.
But the city still doesn’t have a fire chief.
“The city council approves a budget, but it takes 6 to 8 months, even longer than 8 months to hire anybody,” explained Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, whose district includes the Ghost Ship warehouse. “So that’s the challenge. We’re trying to work within the bureaucracy.”
Of the 18 commercial buildings the city suspected people were illegally living in, inspectors have approved at least seven buildings. They’re still working with the remaining property owners to resolve violations.
Less than three months from the anniversary of the Ghost Ship Fire, all the Oakland reforms are still very much a work in progress.