OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Inspectors discovered that a California building in a rundown neighborhood lacked fire extinguishers, smoke detectors in every apartment and a working sprinkler system just three days before a blaze erupted and killed four low-income residents. When firefighters searched the building hours later, they found three people dead.
"People stopped paying their rent, then squatters started coming in and claiming rooms, then some drug activity started happening", Lowery said last week. James Cook, an attorney with John Burris Law Offices, said the address is a transitional housing facility for homeless people, people getting out of prison and people with mental health issues.
City records show a building inspector on March 6 had verified a violation involving deferred maintenance.
Monday's blaze brought back fresh memories of Oakland's deadliest fire on December 2, which killed 36 people attending a dance party at a Fruitvale warehouse known as the Ghost Ship.
The Fire Department's initial attempts to reach Kim or his property manager, identified in documents as Monsa Nitoto, were unsuccessful, city records show, and the OFD's Fire Prevention Bureau received a second referral about the building on March 18.
The Ghost Ship building had been the subject of a similarly troubled code enforcement history, with repeated complaints about blight and the construction of unpermitted living spaces.
But in an email to Lowery dated March 14, McElhaney, who toured the building earlier this month, referred to the mediation meeting and said, "Keith Kim agreed to: drop eviction actions and forgive past accounts ..."
Under state law, local fire officials are responsible for inspecting large residential buildings like 2551 San Pablo on a yearly basis.
Residents also included a 9-year-old boy who escaped in his underwear and socks. Other residents told KTVU-TV reporters Monday that they escaped on their own.
As firefighters struggled early Monday to bring a terrifying residential blaze in Oakland under control, one dramatic video after another was posted online. Kim leased the building to Urojas Community Services, a nonprofit that provided transitional housing to tenants on the building's first and second floors. The previous fire inspection history of the structure that burned Monday was not immediately available. A tweet posted minutes later said crews were withdrawing from the building because the floors and roof were compromised.
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