A number of complaints and violations relating to the warehouse where a fire on Friday night killed at least nine people have come to light as emergency services continue efforts to locate the missing.
Oakland city records show a history of formal complaints made against the building, including one made on 14 November – a “housing habitability” charge relating to an “illegal interior building structure”.
An official investigation was still pending when the fire broke out on Friday night while the warehouse – which had been converted into studio spaces for artists – was hosting a party.
The cause of the fire remains unclear although one official at the scene told reporters that the amount of clutter in the building could have impeded escape routes.
The warehouse was reportedly packed with furniture, mannequins, statues, lamps, and other objects and did not appear to have sprinklers.
It was described by members of the fire department as maze-like and there is evidence that no emergency escape procedure was in place.
The building – known to locals as the “Ghost Ship” – was not permitted for use as a residence, although it is believed to have been used as such, and would have required a special permit to hold a party, which it has emerged it did not have.
The discrepancies in fire safety are not uncommon in Oakland, and one local resident, Shamar Theus, said that he hopes the fire serves as a “wake-up call to Oakland to take this kind of fire safety and building safety stuff seriously”.