Preventing Warehouse Studio Fires in the DC Area

A sheriff in California said he doesn't expect to find any more victims from the weekend's massive warehouse fire in Oakland. Thirty-six bodies have been pulled from the so-called "Ghost Ship."

Dozens of artists set up studios in the building, and a lot of the illegal living spaces were piled high with pallet staircases made of wood. Some former residents called it a disaster waiting to happen, but how can a similar tragedy be prevented from happening in the D.C. area?

Lawrence Ball is a Howard University graduate who owns a digital agency business inside 52 O Street Studios. It's a warehouse that has art studios and some residential units.

Lawrence said the property manager and landlord do a great job to keep the building safe. He said when he walks out of his office, there is a fire extinguisher and a fire alarm in the hallway.

“The D.C. area has very strict requirements,” Lawrence said. “One being licensed as a property manager, and two, being able to maintain a [certificate of occupancy] for a property you're going to be renting out.”

In Prince George’s County, fire department spokesman Mark Brady said the department works hard to prevent fires like the one in Oakland.

“We work very closely agency that issues permits,” Brady said. “What we do here in Prince George’s County, we work very closely with our agency that handles permitting investigations and enforcement, because there are fire life safety codes, and there are building codes.”

A criminal investigation was launched by the Alameda County District Attorney's Office on Sunday into possible criminal negligence.

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 yet determined whether a crime even occurred. She said potential charges could range from involuntary manslaughter to murder.

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