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The Oakland Fire And The City's Underground Music Scene

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Oakland, Calif., crews are still trying to figure out what caused Friday's warehouse fire. Prosecutors are saying that murder charges might be filed. At least 36 people died at a party in this warehouse. Nihar Bhatt is a Bay Area DJ. He was at this warehouse, known as Ghost Ship, on Friday to hear local musicians play. But before he could get in the door...

NIHAR BHATT: We heard somebody yell fire, and we kind of panicked and tried to think about how we could get in there to help people. But before we could even, you know, formulate an idea of what we wanted to do, the entire place started filling up with the black smoke, and people started streaming out.

GREENE: At some point, Bhatt says, the stream of people just stopped, but he still had friends who were trapped inside.

BHATT: About six people that I knew pretty well for years are - are no longer with us. I mean, that's what became of them. I feel so terribly for everyone.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Bhatt says, in addition to the agony of losing his friends, there's also the loss of the Ghost Ship and warehouse spaces like it.

BHATT: These spaces have been under siege for a long time. You know, the housing crisis has meant that every bit of affordable living space or, you know, spaces where this type of gathering can happen have been really hard to hold onto. So it's both a political and an economic siege that's happened on spaces where people can sort of live and be artists.

GREENE: Nihar Bhatt says that Ghost Ship had been a place for fans of experimental dance music to gather.

MARTIN: But the warehouse wasn't permitted as a residence or as a party space. It didn't have a functioning sprinkler system. Firefighters have described it as a labyrinth with wooden rafters and a staircase that had been cobbled together out of wooden pallets.

GREENE: And DJ Nihar Bhatt says it's too soon to talk about ways to improve safety in these spaces. He says, right now, it is time to mourn his friends and the others who died there. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.