Tags: california | warehouse | fire | derik almena | today show

Oakland Fire Warehouse Manager Upset by Matt Lauer

(Today Show)

By    |   Tuesday, 06 Dec 2016 01:08 PM

Derick Almena, the manager of the Oakland, Calif. warehouse where 36 people died after a fire broke out on Friday night, cut short an interview with TODAY's Matt Lauer when asked if his management of the building contributed to the tragic event.

"I'm only here to say one thing: I'm incredibly sorry and that everything that I did was to make this a stronger and more beautiful community and to bring people together," he said Tuesday during the interview. "People didn't walk through those doors because it was a horrible place. People didn't seek us out to perform and express themselves because it was a horrible place."

Almena opened the warehouse to provide artists with space and for people who "can't pay your rent because your dream is bigger than your pocketbook."

"We created something together. This stopped being me. This stopped being about me three years ago," he said, adding that he lived in the warehouse with his partner and three children.

According to Almena, when he signed the lease he "got a building that was to city standards supposedly."

A friend of Almena, Pete Veilleux, told CNN that he refused to stay at the warehouse even when he was desperate for a place to live.

"I needed to move — I was evicted through an owner move-in eviction last year, and they offered me a place last year. It was very, very difficult for me to find a place . . . But this was just too risky for me. It was too scary — mainly for fire (risk) and for lack of privacy, also. So I didn't move in."

Almena defended himself against accusations that he valued profit over safety.

"This is profit? The loss of mass life? I'm a father. I lay my three children down there every night," he said, saying he's the "father of this space."

"Profit? This is not profit, this is loss. This is a mass grave."

As the interview continued, Almena became visibly distressed and called off the interview following questions of his role in the fire.

"I didn't do anything ever in my life that would lead me up to this moment. I'm an honorable man. I'm a proud man," he said.

"No, I'm not going to answer these questions on this level. I'd rather get on the floor and be trampled by the parents. I'd rather let them tear at my flesh than answer these ridiculous questions. I'm so sorry, I'm incredibly sorry," he said just before Lauer thanked him for his time.

Almena also defended his decision to check into a hotel with his family on the night of the fire, saying he only did so because he wanted to avoid the party he knew was planned for that night.

"Did I know there was going to be a fire? Did I remove my children from the space and get a hotel because I wanted to avoid this, because I wanted to cast blame on other people?" he said. "No, because I wanted to get a good night sleep with my children. I wanted let the young people do what they wanted to do.

"I'm not going to answer these questions the way you're present presenting them."

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Derick Almena, the manager of the Oakland, Calif. warehouse where 36 people died after a fire broke out on Friday night, cut short an interview with TODAY's Matt Lauer when asked if his management of the building contributed to the tragic event.
california, warehouse, fire, derik almena, today show
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2016-08-06
Tuesday, 06 Dec 2016 01:08 PM
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