British Columbia

A 'Vancouver approach' could have saved lives in Oakland fire, promoter says

A local alternative arts promoter thinks lives could have been saved in the Oakland warehouse fire if the city used Vancouver's approach to events.

Vancouver alternative arts promoter Matt Troy says city's co-operative approach ensures events are safe

This photo shows the inside of the burned warehouse after the fire broke out Dec. 2, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (City of Oakland via Associated Press)

A Vancouver alternative arts promoter says lives could have been saved in the Oakland warehouse fire if the city used Vancouver's approach to underground events.

At least 36 people died after the Dec. 2 fire trapped participants at an unsanctioned party in the warehouse. The space was popularly known as the Oakland Ghost Ship and was home to a local artist's collective.

Matt Troy is a promoter with Vancouver Art and Leisure, an alternative arts group. He told CBC's The Early Edition the event left him deeply saddened.

"Those people were our people. Those were queer people. Those were Trans people. Those were marginalized people that were just looking to fit in, to be accepted, to have a safe space, and they did not deserve to die."

The death toll from the deadly warehouse fire is currently estimated at 36 people. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

Troy said because marginalized people don't feel safe in more traditional spaces, they are pushed into alternate venues which might not have the same safety protocols in place.

In Vancouver, however, Troy credited the municipal government for making it easier for such groups to get liquor licences, and for facilitating communication with the fire and police departments.

"These events are known, they're monitored and there's some inspections occurring already. This can ensure we have safer spaces ... had it been easier for this Oakland Artist collective to work with their municipal departments and had the guidelines been easier for them to access, I don't think this would have happened," he said.

Not a lot is known yet about the exact cause of the fire. The building's manager said the building was up to code.

The city has come under scrutiny. Oakland city councilman Noel Gallo has said he will push the city to hire additional fire marshals and building inspectors to investigate the warehouse district.

Tory said he hopes Vancouver's model can be used in cities like Oakland to make alternative events safer.

"People are going to have these kinds of events — in alternative, strange, and different locations. It's something that's always going to happen. It's a matter of bringing these events into the light and not pushing them into the darkness."

With files from The Early Edition

To listen to the interview click on the link labelled Vancouver alternative arts promoter on Oakland fire