Journal NOW: Illegal housing in a Boston storage facility recalls Oakland's Ghost Ship warehouse

Blog Post created by averzoni Employee on Aug 17, 2018

The Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, California, following a deadly fire. (Getty Images)

Boston city officials announced this week that they recently ordered a number of occupants who were illegally living in a storage facility to vacate the area "given the unsafe living conditions and health conditions," according to The Boston Herald
The undocumented repurposing of buildings such as storage facilities and warehouses is one of the biggest challenges faced by the enforcement community. It's an issue that was thrust into the spotlight nearly two years ago, when 36 people were tragically killed in a fire in a warehouse-turned-living quarters in Oakland, California. The space was also being used as an arts and performance venue, and the fire ignited during a late-night concert there.  
I wrote about the incident in a story called "Under the Radar" in the January/February 2017 issue of NFPA Journal:
FROM THE OUTSIDE, the building looked like a run-of-the-mill disused warehouse. Sitting on a crowded block in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, adjacent to an auto body shop, the structure’s cracked concrete walls and wide windows were emblazoned with graffiti. Inside, however, the building told a different story.
The warehouse, known locally as the Ghost Ship, had been converted into an unpermitted residence and performance space for artists. Makeshift interior walls divided a warren of living, working, and performance areas; a staircase made partially of wooden pallets connected the two floors of the 10,000-square-foot space. Musical instruments, artwork, antique furniture, and other collectibles were amassed in hoarder-like fashion, creating a claustrophobic, mazelike atmosphere. In addition to the clutter and makeshift nature of the building’s interior, there were no sprinklers or smoke alarms and no proper exits or signage. In nearly every way, the Ghost Ship was primed for a disastrous fire.
Read the full story here. A year later, a follow-up article was published in NFPA Journal called "Ghost Effect," which examined the aftermath of the incident and how NFPA has worked to develop tools for cities to manage high-risk properties.