After latest deadly fire, Oakland mayor promises change

Two of Oakland’s top officials Friday¬†announced moves to improve building safety inspections in the wake of the city’s latest deadly fire in a dilapidated building.

On Monday, a four-alarm fire broke out at a West Oakland apartment building, killing four people, injuring four others and displacing between 80 and 100 residents.

Although the fire was deemed to have accidentally started by somebody using a candle in an apartment unit, the building itself was extremely rundown, lacked smoke alarms and a sufficient number of fire extinguishers, among other problems.

The city’s political leadership was already under fire for the problems that led up to the now-infamous Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 people last December.

Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth today said the city will double the size if its Fire Prevention Bureau, beef up training for inspectors and speed up the search for a new fire chief, among other things.

Schaaf said in a written statement:

“We must expose the reckless property owners who are putting profits above safety. … The two tragic fires over the last months highlight the critical importance of leadership, training, technology and staffing at our fire department.”

The city will “fast-track” the hire of six new inspectors, which if approved by the city council, would double the size of the Fire Prevention Bureau.

It will also reassign fire department personnel to conducting safety inspections until new staffers are brought on.

Landreth said:

“I have directed the fire department to focus all inspection staff — engine companies and fire prevention staff alike — to catch up on the backlog of inspections, with urgent priority on known problem properties, in close coordination with building inspectors.”

Schaaf and Landreth also said they will present the city council with “stronger and more proactive residential and commercial inspection programs.” They also intend for the fire department to use the building department’s online record-keeping tool “to ensure greater transparency” and to allow staff to access planning, fire and building department records using one system.