Old Refrigerator May Be Source of Oakland Fire

'Disaster waiting to happen'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2016 3:29 AM CST
Updated Dec 7, 2016 4:33 AM CST
Faulty Fridge May Have Caused Oakland Disaster
The charred entrance to the Ghost Ship warehouse.   (Alameda County Sheriff's Office)

Investigators searching for the cause of America's deadliest building fire in 13 years are focusing on appliances at the rear of the first floor of the "Ghost Ship" warehouse. "On that back wall, there was a 45-degree-angle burn, and they need to look at that area very carefully,” Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "And in that area is a toaster, a small refrigerator, and slightly larger refrigerator, small and about 4 feet high, like one from the 1950s." The sheriff says it's not clear whether the old fridge caused the blaze that killed 36 people in the Oakland warehouse Friday night, but "that's the area where the ATF is looking." The blaze started during a party, and survivors described flames rising from the back of the first floor, which was connected to the ground floor by a makeshift wooden staircase.

Lawyers say people including warehouse operator Derick Ion Almena, who rented living space to artists, are almost certain to face criminal charges. "Here we have the grossest and most reckless forms of carelessness and negligence," an attorney tells the San Jose Mercury News. "From the pictures I saw, this looked like a huge garage sale about to take place with all the furniture, debris, artist supplies, and other things that were in there," he says. "You probably couldn't have built or arranged an equally flammable place. It kind of was a disaster waiting to happen." The AP reports that Almena told the Today show Tuesday that he signed a lease for somewhere "to city standards" and everything he did "was to make this a stronger and more beautiful community." (Oakland is accused of failing to act on many warnings about the warehouse over the years.)

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