Ghost Ship interview, defendant's wife speaks out

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- She helped build the Oakland artists collective known as "Ghost Ship". Now, her husband faces 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter for all those people who died in the fire. On the eve of an important hearing in the criminal case, Micah Allison has given an exclusive interview to the ABC7 I-Team.

Micah Allison told the I-Team's Dan Noyes, "I don't believe that this is justice. I don't think that this is going to make things better."

Micah says she spoke with us to counter the story that's been out there since the fire erupted. In our interview, she shed tears for the families of the dead, and was brutally honest about the challenges she and her three children face.

I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Oakland's Ghost Ship founder appears in court

Dan Noyes met Micah Allison in Lake County this past Saturday -- it happened to be her husband, Derick Almena's 48th birthday. He's being held in Oakland's North County Jail, charged with involuntary manslaughter for each of the 36 people who died in the Ghost Ship fire. He could receive a long prison sentence if convicted.

"39 years is the rest of my husband's life," says Micah Allison. "It means he'll never see his children again out here."

Micah is doing her best to provide for their children -- ages 7, 9 and 14. After decades as an artist, she has her first full-time job as a social worker, helping families navigate CPS. But, Micah wakes every morning with the Ghost Ship on her mind.

"It was really interesting because that night," she says. "I felt a strange urgency to leave and just get my kids out, I don't know why I just felt like I didn't want to be there."

While a concert started at the warehouse, Micah and Derick took their kids to a hotel by the airport. Around midnight, they started getting calls from the Ghost Ship, people yelling "fire".

"We so rarely left that space that we thought they were joking with us," says Micah. "The first time that we leave and there's something wrong."

Finally, one of Derick's trusted friends reached him and said, "It's burning and everything is gone," according to Micah.

Derick posted a Facebook message: "Confirmed. Everything I worked so hard for is gone. ... It's as if I have awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope to be standing now in poverty of self-worth."

That drew a wave of criticism in the days and weeks to come, but Micah explains, when Derick wrote the message, they had no idea people were missing in the blaze or that the Ghost Ship would become the nation's deadliest building fire in a decade.

Dan: "Do you have any words for the families?"

Micah: "All I can do is offer my utmost condolences to the families that have lost their loved ones."

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Micah tells us the narrative that they had built a death trap -- filled to the brim with combustibles, a labyrinth -- wasn't true: "We were meticulous about making sure the space is clean whenever we open the doors for that kind of a thing and making sure that the pathways were clear."

She says, after losing her children to CPS -- they stayed with family in Southern California -- the agency inspected the warehouse, concluding it was suitable for their kids and returned them seven months before the fire.

Micah told the I-Team, "So the whole space had shifted into a much more family centered place."

She also says they tried repeatedly -- but failed to get the landlord to help upgrade the electrical system to address the frequent outages.

"Several times over and over again, trying to work out different ways that we could even help get some of the work done, so it wouldn't be as expensive for them," she says.

Public records show some police officers and firefighters saw conditions at the warehouse, but didn't raise concerns with city agencies. This is a police body camera video released by the City of Oakland.

Derick Almena told an Oakland Police Officer, "We just had a transformer blow, and it's the same problems all over again."

His wife believes, "I do not think that it was Derek's fault for what happened that night."

RELATED: Ghost Ship founder Derick Almena booked into Santa Rita Jail

Micah tells me it a terrible, tragic accident -- not a crime, but she understands the families demanding someone be held accountable.

"And to talk directly to the mothers and fathers that lost their children, I don't know how to do that honestly," Micah says. "I don't know how to do that, I'm sorry."

Lawyers for the families tell us they want the landlord also to be charged in the criminal case. I called and emailed the DA's Office about that -- no word back, at this point. Derick Almena and a second man who lived at the Ghost Ship, Max Harris, are facing charges -- they have a bail reduction hearing tomorrow. Of course, ABC7 will be there to report on this next step in a long, painful process -- especially for the families of those who died.

UPDATED STATEMENT: "It is our position that justice will be served, as to this date, no conclusive evidence or factual determination has been founded, as to the cause of the fire at the Ghost Ship Warehouse. While all continue to mourn the 36 lives, that were tragically lost that night- our hearts and prayers go out to the families in hopes of healing." Kali Mari-Bowyer, publicist for Derick & Micah.

Click here to watch Ghost Ship party video courtesy of Kenny Hoff.

Click here for full coverage on the investigation into Oakland's deadly Ghost Ship Fire.
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