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Tenants displaced by Oakland warehouse fire grateful management stressed safety

A three-alarm fire Friday morning destroyed a warehouse in East Oakland that’s part of m0xy, a complex hosting artist studios and maker spaces with resources to help creators build businesses.

The fire at the former metal work facility at 976 23rd Ave. was reported at 6:21 a.m. It quickly grew, engulfing a building adjacent to East 11th Street, sending plumes of smoke that could be seen for several miles. As of about 11:30 a.m., firefighters were still working on extinguishing the smoldering remains of the blaze.

There were no injuries and the cause is under investigation. Firefighters planned to remain in the area for the rest of the day. Rachel Sadd, a tenant in the burned area of the building, said that she expects her studio was destroyed in the fire. She said the burned area housed about 10 different artists and businesses as well as the main m0xy offices.

The building also offered community spaces like a meeting room that were open to all m0xy tenants.

Sadd said:

“I’m just incredibly sad.” 

“That’s 20 years of my work gone. And I’m incredibly grateful for how m0xy was run and that nobody was hurt.”

Sadd said she makes a variety of art, including wearable art like costumes and clothing with electronics in them. She was in the process of building an interactive art piece for the Oakland Museum of California called Giftomatic.

Sadd also serves as executive director of Ace Monster Toys, a maker space in North Oakland, and said that she is making resources available there to people who are affected by the m0xy fire.

Oakland Fire Department A warehouse in Oakland, Calif. Fruitvale District, which houses up to 10 business and 30 workspaces, set fire on the morning on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. The three-alarm blaze produced smoke plumes that could be seen for miles.

Sadd said:

“My community can offer them at least tool access and shop access.” 

“We just don’t have the large warehouse space… but I might be able to connect them. At the very least as a community we can connect them with other resources.”

Torrey Smith is a tenant in one of the areas that appears to be unaffected by the fire. He said that m0xy management was very concerned about fire safety and would regularly inspect their spaces and demand they make at times difficult changes.

The building was only a few blocks from where another artist space, the Ghost Ship, burned in December 2016, killing 36 people. While the Ghost Ship was converted into living and arts space with apparently little regard for fire safety, m0xy’s tenants say their building was run much more professionally.

Smith said:

“I was probably the one complaining the most (about the fire safety measures) but now I see that the fire was unable to spread from one area of the building, I can see the value in that.” 

Sextant Tesla coil on display in Calgary, Canada constructed in part at the m0xy artist studio, maker space in Oakland, Calif. The Oakland warehouse caught fire on the morning of Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.

Smith’s artist collective, Sextant, built a Tesla coil — two 30-foot-tall towers that shoot 20-foot bolts of lightning — that they have displayed internationally at the Beakerhead event in Calgary, Canada.

Smith said:

“Having access to a facility like that was instrumental in the Sextant art collective getting our Tesla coil working.” 

More recently, Smith’s group founded a medical robotics company, Endiatx, to make tiny pill robots to diagnose and treat illness in the human body. They were constructing parts for the robots inside m0xy.

“We’re going to be OK but all I can say is that we’ve been putting the m0xy warehouse to good use not just in the arts space but also the high tech space.”

Still, with the memory of the Ghost Ship fire still fresh, Smith said that he was especially glad no one was hurt.

Smith said:

“That was a really deep wound in the community that people are still hurting over.” 

“It’s ok to lose some arts and some objects but people can’t be replaced.”

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