At­ten­tion on owner, man­ager of prop­erty

Death toll at 36; o∞cials say they don’t ex­pect to find more bod­ies

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Paul Elias and Janie Har

Terry Ewing was among the anx­ious fam­ily and friends who re­ceived con­fir­ma­tion Mon­day of what he al­ready knew in his heart: His girl­friend was among the three dozen killed in the ware­house fire.

Au­thor­i­ties con­firmed the death of Ara Jo as the death toll rose to 36. Prose­cu­tors also said Mon­day that mur­der charges could re­sult from their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fire that broke out dur­ing an un­der­ground dance party at a build­ing known as the “Ghost Ship.”

Alameda County Sher­iff Gre­gory Ah­ern said he didn’t be­lieve there would be ad­di­tional bod­ies found in what is the most lethal build­ing fire in the U.S. in more than a decade.

But he cau­tioned that it was “im­pos­si­ble to be ab­so­lutely pos­i­tive” un­til the en­tire re­cov­ery ef­fort is com­plete. Au­thor­i­ties had gone through about three-quar­ters of the build­ing by Tues­day af­ter­noon.

The la­bo­ri­ous job of dig­ging with shov­els and buck­ets through the de­bris was sus­pended overnight be­cause of a dan­ger­ously un­sta­ble wall. A rain­storm Tues­day could com­pli­cate the ef­fort. The clut­tered ware­house had been con­verted to artists’ stu­dios and il­le­gal liv­ing spa­ces, and for­mer denizens said it was a death trap of piled wood, fur­ni­ture, snaking elec­tri­cal cords and only two ex­its.

Alameda County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Nancy O’Mal­ley said Mon­day her of­fice has sent a team to search for ev­i­dence of a crime in the ware­house but has not de­ter­mined whether a crime oc­curred. She said po­ten­tial charges could range from in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter to mur­der. She de­clined to say who her team has in­ter­viewed.

“It’s too early to spec­u­late on any­thing,” O’Mal­ley said. “We just started our in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and we owe it to the com­mu­nity and those who per­ished in this fire and those who sur­vived the fire to be me­thod­i­cal, to be thor­ough and to take the amount of time it takes to be able to look at ev­ery piece of po­ten­tial ev­i­dence.”

Oak­land City Coun­cil­man Noel Gallo, who lives a block from the ware­house, said he con­fronted the prop­erty’s man­ager — Der­ick Ion Al­mena — sev­eral times about neigh­bors’ con­cerns about trash in the street and in front of the ware­house. Gallo said Al­mena es­sen­tially told au­thor­i­ties to “mind their own busi­ness” and ap­peared re­sis­tant to ad­dress­ing com­plaints and com­ply­ing with city codes.

Al­mena and his part­ner, Micah Al­li­son, ran the build­ing’s arts colony, called the Satya Yuga col­lec­tive. They were be­lieved to have been away at the time of the blaze.

Rel­a­tives, friends and for­mer col­leagues said Al­mena loved to sur­round him­self with fol­low­ers but seemed to care lit­tle for their well-be­ing.

Asked late Sun­day by San Fran­cisco tele­vi­sion sta­tion KGO about his thoughts on those killed in the fire, Al­mena said, “They’re my chil­dren. They’re my friends, they’re my fam­ily, they’re my loves, they’re my fu­ture. What else do I have to say?”

Al­mena did not re­spond to e-mails or calls to phone num­bers as­so­ci­ated with him. No one an­swered a call to a num­ber for Al­li­son. The ware­house is owned by Chor N. Ng, her daugh­ter Eva Ng told the Los An­ge­les Times. She said the ware­house was leased as stu­dio space for an art col­lec­tive, not for use as a dwelling.

“We are also try­ing to fig­ure out what’s go­ing on like ev­ery­body else,” the fam­ily wrote in a state­ment to NBC Bay Area. “Our con­do­lences go out to the fam­i­lies and friends of those in­jured and those who lost their lives.”

Gallo said Chor N. Ng put Al­mena in charge of clean­ing up the Ghost Ship, and noth­ing was done. “I hold the owner of the prop­erty re­spon­si­ble,” Gallo said. “I hold the man­ager re­spon­si­ble.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Danielle Boudreaux cries in front of a me­mo­rial near the site of a ware­house fire in Oak­land, Calif. The death toll in the fire climbed to 36 on Mon­day. Of­fi­cials said they don’t ex­pect to find more bod­ies in the ru­ins. Marcio Jose Sanchez,

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