OAKLAND (KPIX) – Firefighters said what happened at an East Oakland business complex could have turned in to another inferno like the recent M0xy (with a zero) fire or Ghost Ship warehouse fire.
The complex is located at 4030 International Boulevard, in the Fruitvale District. It contains several buildings. People were reportedly growing marijuana plants in two of those buildings. The illegal pot farm blew up a transformer, knocking out power to about a dozen small businesses in the same complex. That happened back on May 12th. Three months later, some are still without power.
Sequoia CrossFit is the biggest tenant in the complex. Owner Matt Andrus said after the power went out, he did a little investigating and found a pot farm in the warehouse next door.
“I read about the M0xy fire. Everyone knows about the tragedy at the Ghost Ship fire, and that could’ve been us. That faulty wiring that blew out the transformer could’ve also started a fire and destroyed the whole building,” said Andrus.
Andrus said there were roughly 6,000 to 7,000 marijuana plants, worth millions of dollars. The fire department red tagged the building. Many businesses lost power for a month and a half. Andrus is still without power. He relies on a generator to keep a fan and few other essential things operating.
“I even pulled my pickup truck right in the middle of [the gym], opened the doors, turned on the stereos and said ‘there’s our music guys. We’re good to go, like no excuses, do the burpees,'” said Andrus.
Some businesses at Plaza Del Sol, which is part of the complex, have shut down since the power outage. Others are getting power through an extension cord that’s connected to a different transformer. The fire department reportedly approved it. Margarita Peralta owns a salon in the plaza.
“I wasn’t generating any money because of the power situation. I also got very sick thinking that I have to pay rent. Everything runs with power. I cannot work if I don’t have any power,” said Peralta, through a Spanish translator.
Andrus said the outage also affected his gym. He was unable to pay his June and July rent. He said he paid his August rent. He said instead of working with him, the landlord is now trying to evict him.
“She’s refusing to reimburse us for our time, for our costs and expenses, and threatening us with eviction when we’ve done nothing wrong,” said Andrus.
Oakland Councilman Noel Gallo has stepped in to try to help the businesses.
“The property owner is responsible for the upkeep, the safety, and all the legal features that they’re required to have. And they’re dropping the ball. And they need to be held responsible legally,” said Gallo, who oversees the Fruitvale District.
Right now, PG&E, city inspectors and the property owner are working to restore power. So far, no timeline as to when it’ll be fixed.