Lawyers who are defending the hipster owner and operator of an Oakland warehouse where a fire took the lives 36 people, had the nerve to blame a host of possible offenders Friday for the nation’s deadliest structure fire in more than 14 years. Those they blamed included utility officials as well as firefighters.
Attorney Jeffrey Krasnoff:
They say firefighters should have instead sliced through a hole into a wall. ‘There could have been more survivors.’
Karen Boyd, a spokeswoman for the city of Oakland, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
At a news conference Friday, attorney Tony Serra also said suspect Derick Almena has suffered a near mental breakdown since the fire.
‘It has created a sadness… an almost total destruction of his mental stability,’ Serra said. Serra is one of three attorneys representing Almena who they describe as deeply distraught.
Authorities say Almena, 47, rented the warehouse and illegally converted it into low-cost housing for artists and an entertainment venue.
Almena and Max Harris, 27, were arrested Monday after a six-month investigation of the December 2 fire that occurred during an unpermitted electronic music concert at the building known as the Ghost Ship.
Prosecutors say the site was cluttered with highly flammable material and the suspects failed to provide adequate fire safety systems.
Prosecutors are also alleging that it was Harris who planned the ill-fated party on December 2 when the fire erupted, according to Mercury News.
Harris is believed to have blocked off one of two exits from the second floor during preparations for the party.
Authorities believe this ‘effectively reduced the upstairs guests to a single point of escape’ down a makeshift front staircase constructed of wood pallets.
Both were charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Almena had rented out the place after he and his wife Micah Allison and their three young children had already lived in the unit. Fortunately for them, they were staying at a hotel on the night of the blaze. Allison spoke in defense of her husband on Friday for the first time:
‘We would never have lived in a place we thought was unsafe. We were not there the night of the fire on December 2 because it was going to be a loud event, not because we were afraid of the possibility on anything going wrong.’
She said her husband was only trying to help the ‘struggling’ art community by providing low-cost and ‘safe’ housing to financially starving artists in the expensive San Francisco Bay Area.
‘We are all grieving. My husband is a good man. Max Harris is a good man. They are not greedy. They are not selfish or reckless. I just hope that everyone could have a little bit of compassion for everyone involved.’
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