Former Mendocino Man Center of Controversy Over Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland

Derick Ion Almena Screengrab from Google Images

Screengrab of part of a Google Images’ page on Derick Ion Almena

As a community grieving the loss of at least 36 people who perished in the massive warehouse fire this weekend in Oakland searches for someone or something to blame, they have begun to focus on a 47-year-old man Derick Ion Almena. Almena managed the 10,000 square foot artist colony known as the Ghost Ship where the fire ignited during a party. According to his father-in-law, Almena lived for a time in Mendocino growing marijuana.

Several news media are reporting that murder charges could be filed. A Salinas based tv news show, KSBW, reported on the fire and it’s aftermath  last night. They stated,

Survivors recounted having to struggle to escape the burning warehouse, where many of the victims were on a makeshift second floor served by a rickety staircase of wooden pallets. Visitors described the structure as a warren of scrap wood, sofas, old pianos and electrical cables, with only two exits.

Investigators have declined to say whether they believe whether Almena or the building’s owner bear any responsibility for the blaze.

Oakland building inspectors had opened an investigation into the warehouse last month. Acquaintances and local authorities described repeatedly confronting Almena about what they saw as unsafe and unsanitary conditions for his children and others living there.



  • What a dirt bag junkie P.0.s

  • I’ve been watching this all weekend, they interviewed a former renter and she shed a pretty bright light on how things were ran, this guy sounds like a real piece of work, even went as far as to put his wife and kids in a hotel just in case…
    People who care about others don’t break the law and put many lives in danger or cause death, by bypassing the electric company, two years of complaints and now this, Terrible.

    • the misadventures of bunjee

      I can let a lot of things go, and look the other way on somethings and let people live, but holy shit this guy, from all I read…is just playing stupid like he never saw a thing and he doesn’t know what anybody is so worked up about.

      Your devil is coming for you Derick, for you brought it to others. Two things everyone screamed about (and probably when they were burning too)…fire and electrical safety..

    • He stayed in the hotel to let the young kids party without disrupting his own kids sleep. This is so sad. This is why cities condemn places. This will be an example of why you need permits for years to come. Im praying for all these people including the manager. These people did not have any affordable housing options … or they would have lived elsewhere. This is better than being homeless.

      • I heard on the news he was trying to get custody of his kids. He planned to bring them there to live but, it was still in the courts.

        • His kids were taken away from him & his lady friend. (Mom maybe) from child protection agency due to the conditions at that ware house!! He managed it. Did the OWNER RECEIVE RENT PAYMENTS FROM THOSE LIVING THERE???? Or did the manager. A song writer was in that building w/family here in WI. He made it out. Godspeed to those families and friends, loved ones,brother,sister who perished in this horrible fire. My prayers and thoughts are with all.

      • There are literally thousands of artists in warehouses around the country who will most likely face immediate eviction during the cold of winter. It just happened in Boston, kicked out on the spot not allowed to get their stuff or anything.
        As for the bay area, facebook and google should be forced to pay for places for folks to stay over winter. If you wanna blame someone,,lets for once go to the heart of the problem, those two businesses and the govt leaders who allowed the incredibly fast gentrification of the entire area.
        Folks paying 500 bucks at ghost ship is a deal for oakland these days. I truly hope that the focus shifts to addressing the issue that no one can afford rent anymore and that is truly the root of these problems. I was glad to see oaklands mayor booed, she has blood on her hands.

        From what ive heard and known of folks at ghost ship, one of the best ways to honor them is to address the very serious issues of not being able to afford rent, the lack of places/venues for musicians and artists just starting out to play, and safe spaces for any/all fringe members of society, be it lgbtq or activists or whomever.

    • Shelly Mack, the former renter you refer to, is a bit of piece of work, too.
      Nothing in comparison to Almena, though.

      He’s at least 14 out of 17 listed signs. ^^^

      • I never commented on her character, rather listened to what she said and it surely concurs with what did happen.

        • “…it surely concurs with what did happen.”

          Yes, indeed. Mentioned her ‘character’ in relation to Almena’s as she’s a grudge and wasn’t a totally innocent party in their exchanges.

    • Actually he wasn’t the one holding the party, he runs the building and has put on plenty of other parties. Another guy was promoting and putting on the “party” that fateful night, which is why this POS put his family in a hotel, they weren’t involved. However he’s culpable nonetheless.

    • The only reason his kids are alive is because CPS took his kids away from Derick Ion Almena and his wife because of their living conditions in the Ghost Ship. Almena found suitable living arrangements for the kids and CPS released the children to their parents. Thats why his family ended up in a hotel. The children and parents were saved due to CPS.

      • Incorrect. Re-read the news reports. The kids were returned awhile ago. He checked them all into the hotel ($400+ a night Marriott in Oakland) to get away from the crowd and noise that Friday. That’s why they’re alive, not because of CPS’ prior involvement.

        NBC Bay Area paid for them to stay there at least a few more nights in exchange for “exclusive” interviews.

  • And now they have ghosts. So sad.

  • Honeydew Bridge Chump

    When this story broke wondered if an indoor grow or hash lab started the fire.

    Have to watch an see!

    • The building had one electrical outlet. Wires everywhere even to the neighbors. Also used gas generators.

    • How does an indoor grow start a fire? I guess anything is possible with electricity. But having a party around an indoor grow? Not a successful one.
      Seems knee-jerk. Seems like everybody is just beating this guy up (he deserves it, yes) but this is created more by the inflexible planners and zoners, who know their laws don’t work and that they MUST turn a blind eye. Now they will just kick everybody out, a lll the shitty TV news reporters will win awards for finding out landlords are evil and tenants live in squalor and NO repercussions to the governments, other than for not enforcing unenforceable laws. There has to be real housing reform and real reUse. If the landlord WANTED to put in real work, he cannot HIRE a contractor because they would be working in an unpermitted use.

  • Murder charges in a structure blaze hard to convict unless fire was arson. “Mens rea.”

    But manslaughter charges would more likely be the criminal charge if one is pursued.

    You can DEFINITELY count on countless wrongful death civil suits against him, the owner, the guy next door who let them siphon power off and likely various city heads of planning fire and safety .

    Let it not be missed : The father of his gf paints him as a CLASSIC SOCIOPATH/NARCISSIST . They live among us people! They are charming! So nice! …yet actually so manipulative and care only about themselves. Educate yourself and avoid these types like the fucking plague.

    Quote ..’Honestly, I don’t think he is capable of feeling any kind of remorse or guilt,” said Allison’s father, Michael Allison of Portland, Oregon. “I’ve never seen him ever really care about anyone else.”…

    • He’s a psychopath not a sociopath. Check the link posted several comments down below. He’s clearly exhibiting at least 14 of 17 listed traits.

      • notqualifiedtosay

        Maybe…. the dad claims he’s an addict which by its nature turns people into selfish assholes so it is unlikely he’s a full blown psychopath. And…”Many forensic psychologists, psychiatrists and criminologists use the terms sociopathy and psychopathy interchangeably. Leading experts disagree on whether there are meaningful differences between the two conditions….”

        You are basically comparing rotten tomatoes to sour milk. Both nasty. And dangerous.

    • There is also a charge of Criminally Negligent Homicide. It sounds as if that was what he was guilty of in renting that place for people to live in. There was no real wiring, no heating, no cooking facilities, and make shift stairs.

    • Five Powerful Ways Abusive Narcissists Get Inside Your Head | Self-Care Haven by Shahida Arabi

  • When I wonder how this happened and what could have prevented it so many factors come into play. The fire department and city officials must have known the building was populated and unsafe. The people who lived there must have read stories of other terrible fires and I wonder if common sense would alert them to the fact that it was a fire trap. I think of the attitude of young folks busy and excited by life who tend to feel that they are invincible and that nothing can happen to them. Maybe one person will be prosecuted but many will be forever haunted.

  • People generally live in the safest and most comfortable housing that they can find and afford. How many people do you know who daisy-chain extension cords, use the cheapest cords they can find, and/or plug in outlet expanders or power strips so thay can have more outlets, not understanding that the wiring in the walls and the cords has limits? I’ve seen so many of those.

  • the misadventures of bunjee

    Not linking here to them but some of the guy’s responses on his social media pages are beyond callous and insensitive. His whole gripe being “well damn….lost all my stuff”. Some of the commenters saying he should have been one of them for his blatant disregard for building safety, and his cohorts, many of whom died in the fire.

  • Guess Kym saw fit to delete my first sarcastic response. Basically – we have encouraged a grow culture to flourish here that has attracted many selfish people. Often they camouflage their self-absorbed intentions with flowery language and cool phrases about “community” or “manifesting spiritual whatever”. Often many of us are naïve enough to fall for their crap. In this case people died. Basic common sense in regards to safety and electrical were ignored for a long time while packing people into a dangerous situation. It’s a tragedy. But I think the responsibility lies with all of us for allowing a culture to flourish that encourages scammers and salesmen and classifying anybody who calls them out as “negative” or “harsh”. Yes- there is a lot of deferred responsibility and acceptance of weak excuses in our weed-growing community. I’m sure it only encouraged him to continue acting as a “manifestor of artistic desires” or some shit while ignoring electrical outlets that sparked and blew out.

    • the misadventures of bunjee

      Stop your whining Bobby. And trolling. And expecting her to “Note” what you think she deleted publicly so you can get your post in another way. But there you are again….getting your thoughts in again. Classic troll. Even your handle says it.

      • Thanks, Kym! My bad! I must have made a mistake posting it. Anyways- I like my 2nd and less sarcastic, more straightforward comment better. But it’s not about me. I was simply drawing a line between this disaster and sloppy community standards, what we allow to fly around our grow/festie/alternative culture… What’s your problem, Misadventures? Would you like to say something about my comment? You post every day on many articles for many months now. Do you have something for me? Often you have constructive comments- I’m surprised to see you act so juvenile.

        • the misadventures of bunjee

          Because you went off on a rant accusing Kym of censorship and I just brought you back down to earth.

    • I didn’t delete any comments on this post. Either you made a some sort of mistake or the comment program did.

  • Being a 30 year professional firefighter, I recall complaints from public assembly building owners about regulations.
    This is the ultimate end result of not abiding by the fire code.
    Many Fire departments are not given the authority of closing a place like this. They have to go through law enforcement or the building departments.
    I have no idea what the Oakland Fire Department did or could have done.
    This is the kind of situation where your government agencies protect you. Those who want to weaken codes and regulations need to take note of what has happened by not having the required building configurations in place.
    If you are a business owner don’t complain when the fire inspector tells you to have the required exits in place, or to remove that extension cord. It is for the safety of your business and the safety of your employees and the public.

    • Yes. This artist complex could have been in a third or fourth world country. Hard to believe this was allowed in CA. I have a friend building a house in Fieldbrook. The newer CA regs require a sprinkler system in a three bedroom home! Unbelievable!!

      • 200,000 rentals in city of oakland.
        4 inspectors

        If youre poor no one cares. Its rampant everywhere, look no further than eureka.
        Have you been in a Squires rental? At least people werent killed when a few of their rentals went up in flames. Yet.
        I remember friends battling him in 1994. How does someone get away with that for so long?
        & check out the back of ncj when they print whom still owes property taxes; squires are always in there for at least 20,000 owed. Guess he needs the money to pay off his cronies in our local govt at the Ingomar club.

        • This was not a rental!

          • Actually it was a rental according to dozens of reports. It was leased by a large landowning slumlord who has released a statement saying they have “no comment” and are “trying to figure out what is going on”
            The landlord must bear some responsibility here.

          • The warehouse was a rental and everyone in there was sub-leasing aka renting from the master tenant.

            Owner Ng owns over a dozen other rental properties in Oakland and the Bay Area.

        • Squires long time immunity to prosecution does make you wonder who he’s paying off. Or maybe it’s a blackmail situation? Either way, the guy gets away with outrageous stuff none of the rest of us ever could even get close to.

          • That is true. The city has been suing him for years but he usually just fails to appear and yet nothing happens. It would seem that local judges and law enforcement are protecting him from what little effort comes from the city and county.

  • Whatever happened to taking self responsibility? Were the 36 forced to be in there or did they choose to ignore the unsafe makeshift arrangements? I feel horrible for the loss of lives, & the pain & suffering they went through. Tragidies like this take two to tango. I would think the media would put out a reminder to follow your instincts & just say no to uncomfortable situations. Follow your instincts & live to see another party. Don’t follow the herd.

    • Shak is right, the at least 37 dead should all stand up and take personal responsibility.
      Fucking asshat.

    • I’ve never gone to a haunted house and asked to see the wiring and safety features before entering.

      Never been to a Christmas party where I made sure my friend’s home has upgraded wiring, a clean chimney, and UL-listed Christmas lights on the tree. Or that there’s a working fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

      I’ve never tested smoke alarms at a venue, or looked at a blueprint and permits before I went in. I’ve never seen anyone else do these things, either.

      • That’s because we trust our fellow human beings to be of good standard and not lead us into these type of devils fun… we as humans trust our other humans to help us live a safe and enjoyable life, this piece of shit lured folks in need in and took advantage of all his surroundings including neibors.
        Sleep well Derick; karma is looking down on you

  • Just be normal grow dope and drink whiskey like everyone else. Douchbag drug addicts take head this is what is called a “reality check.” Sad and tragic for all involved. I looked at a few of these collective art spaces when I was working in Marin. They all were the same with ext cords and wires everywhere down the “hallways” and over “walls.” Ghetto fo sure and they all had that same scene going and parties/concerts to help out with rent etc. If the public/city only knew how many of these places are in the Bay Area I literally looked at half dozen of these “collective art spaces” one afternoon then decided that ain’t for me. DIY and get job the bums lost art is dead and so is your slacker lifestyle grow up!

  • Dope fogged minds do what dope fogged minds do. Nothing!
    Weed got that chemical called “fuck it”. If it wasn’t for their women they’d all sit in a pile of junk food discards with a silly ass look on their faces!

    I can hear it now. “Hey there’s only one way off the second floor, and its suspect.”
    Stoned Manager hitting blunt, “It works, fuck it.”
    I bet he said fuck it to anything that got in the way of his fixing a jones.

    After seeing the victims. Should I lighten up on the criminal

    WTF Oakland! No teeth behind fire codes?

  • Seems to me the blame goes all the way around. The state. The city. The owner. The lease holder. The residents. Our society.

    Most of those people would have been homeless if not for that place. The rents in the Bay Area are beyond the reach of most fully employed people. Those who died chose it. There were others who chose not to move in. There was obviously NO expectation of safety in a fire. Buildings like that have to pass inspections if there are businesses in them, and if they are insured properly in any case. There is no chance the neighbors and city offices didn’t know what was going on there. The dope who ran it, without question, thought he’d found a way to keep artists from dying on the street, and whoever owned it probably thought the same.

    It’s everyone’s fault… maybe city planners’ most of all.

  • From all accounts I’ve read this guy is an entitled toolbag. He represents the exact stereotype so many of us here in Humboldt have grown to hate.
    Its cool to live your life and build your dreams, but dont do it at other people’s expense. Live and let live. Be a good nieghbor and care about how what you are doing does or is effecting others around you.
    I hope there will be some justice here that can lead to the victim’s families finding some sort of peace.

  • The basis of this is economics. Bay Area rent prices and greedy landlords. The grunt working class has a hard enough time surviving. So how are the creative (artists,musicians,etc) to survive? This country’s society has always looked down on artists because it doesn’t fit into the economical model of America.

  • Alemena was charging Artists rent to live there. I’m sure he won’tbe getting a good nights sleep for a while. He deserves 36counts of involuntary manslaughter or something worse. Sacrificing safety for profit. A true SCUM BAG..

  • So I wonder just how many houses in all of California have enough plug outlets for the lifestyles we live?
    Phone, TV, Fridge, Toaster, Microwave, Stove, Radio, Coffee pot, etc.?
    I know I use multi plug outlets and I bet you do too.

    And Kym….Thanks for not making us go through twitter or facebook to comment!

  • Just because this guy once grew pot up here now we have to act like there’s a relationship to the fire and pot culture. WTF This connection is dubious and shouldn’t have been the subject of an article up here, in my opinion.

  • No doubt that this was a horrible tragedy. My adult children are in this age group and knew one person that perished in the fire and also had friends that knew people – only one degree of separation. What a devastating loss! And it effects all of us no matter where we live. Rest In Peace.

  • he looks suspicious alright.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *