Opinion: What’s Really Going on With Bay Area Fires?


By Richard Johnson, San Quentin Prison

It has become almost routine for devastating property fires that cause major deaths to occur in Oakland.

We can attribute this to many factors. Yet, if the truth be told, there’s no real accountability with regards to efficient procedural inspections being adhered to that could possibly point out potential hot spots destined to go up in flames due to a lack of preventable measures being established.

The most recent fire on San Pablo Avenue in West Oakland was in a depressed area with conditions associated with being underprivileged.

Chances are had such a building been located in a more affluent vicinity, there is no doubt that inspections and the enforcement of codes would have occurred.

The Ghost ship nightmare, which occurred in a Fruitvale District impoverished area, was yet another example of disregard and lack of budget allocations for sufficient inspectors by the city’s managers.

The cumulative effect of dereliction by our elected officials and well-paid managers has created these patterns of fires that resulted in the loss of precious lives.

It’s irresponsible and outrageous for a city not to at least attempt to render help to those areas that truly need oversight.

The mounting deaths and property destruction demands that there be a thorough investigation into the finances.

As someone who attended schools and was raised in Oakland, I appeal to the city’s residents and leaders to understand that you are charged with the responsibility to rectify the ills that have caused so much pain, anger and grief to your poor and helpless neighbors.

Depending on your point of view of how these catastrophic fires affect so many, we are left with the option to either act or not to act.

A lot of times it’s not the act itself that is important, but rather it’s our reactions toward prevention that make the difference.


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