Oakland community rebuilds after deadly fire

The aftermath of the Dec. 2 Oakland fire continues to loom over Northern California.

The fire, which took the lives of 36 people attending a party, occurred at the “Ghost Ship,” a warehouse used to provide studios for artists and performance space for musicians, according to an ABC News report.

As many as 100 guests attended the party, where electrically charged, 15-foot flames broke out shortly before midnight. The report said the resulting smoke opened a window and allowed fire-fueling oxygen into the warehouse, but no exact cause or perpetrator has been determined yet.

According to a news report said the fire caused the warehouse’s roof to crumble and fall through the second floor, after which, part of the roof fell to the first floor. Investigators are checking all electrical objects on the first floor as a potential source of the blaze. 

The report said that of the 36 casualties, 35 have been identified.

Those lost in the fire and subsequent destruction included Alex Vega and Michela Gregory, according to Bay Area news station FOX 2. The report said these two had been dating for five years, and that Vega was trying to protect Gregory before they were both killed by the smoke. When their bodies were found, they were hugging each other.

Sonoma State student and STAR staff writer Lindsey Huffman, a friend of Gregory’s since childhood, said Gregory and Vega were a loving couple.

“To read that story and know this boy really loved her… is so crazy,” Huffman said. “I couldn’t imagine the pain she was suffering in those moments.”

Huffman, a junior communication and media studies major at Sonoma State, said she got to know Gregory when they both played at the Millbrae Softball League. The two women, who both grew up in San Bruno, attended middle school together and maintained frequent contact while attending different high schools and colleges.

Huffman said Gregory was well-known in their hometown community.

“It has been horrific this whole weekend, especially being home and in the area,” Huffman said.

The Bay Area community is far from the only one to be affected by this fire. SFGate, a Bay Area news website, listed the fire’s victims in an article. The lives lost grew up in places as diverse as San Diego, Utah, and Chelmsford, Massachusetts, according to the article.

Huffman said she encourages Sonoma State students to become more aware about the Oakland fire and suggests donating money to relief causes, such as various GoFundMe online fundraisers. 

One of these crowdfunded campaigns focuses on “future expenses” for Daniel Vega — Alex’s brother — while another, created by Reina Lam, is for Oakland residents who lost their homes and belongings in the fire.

A Dec. 5 article from The Press Enterprise lists other ways to help Oakland fire survivors and the families of victims. The “Oakland Fire Relief” page on youcaring.com raised over $650,000 for victims and their families as of Dec. 12. 

This fundraiser is supported by Bay Area sports teams such as the Oakland A’s, Oakland Raiders, and Golden State Warriors, each of which have pledged to raise $50,000. 

Another youcaring.org fundraiser, organized by the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, plans to distribute its money among “all affected” by the fire. 

The article said the foundation is teaming up with the Oakland mayor’s office and American Red Cross for these efforts.