Social media users are pleading with television network NBC to pull an upcoming episode of drama series Chicago Fire inspired by the deadly Ghost Ship fire in Oakland last year.
Earlier this week, The Mercury News reported that the episode, titled "Deathtrap," is already shot and scheduled to air on Wednesday, March 1, nearly three months to the day that 36 people were killed (including artists Chelsea Faith Dolan, a.k.a. Cherushii; Johnny Igaz, a.k.a. Nackt; and Them Are Us Too guitarist Cash Askew) while attending a music gathering inside a warehouse on December 2. A synopsis on film and television database IMDB reads in part:
"Truck and squad are called to aid in a massive all-city response when an old, ill-equipped factory-turned live/work space quickly turns into a firestorm, trapping countless unsuspecting victims. The dire situation quickly turns personal when it is discovered that one of Chicago PD's own has a family member at the scene."
Mercury News also pointed out a casting call for extras, which explicitly used the term "Ghost Ship." The notice seeks young men and women to play "rave party goers" for a scene that "entails running and screaming as party goers try to escape a warehouse fire." A preview for the episode can be viewed below.
Musician Eric Bateman, who lost friends in the fire, told San Francisco Magazine, "This is horrible and tasteless. To think about them filming actors as extras pretending to be our friends running for their lives while they're in a fire, that's horrifying."
Other Bay Area locals and members of the artist community took to social media to express their outrage with the episode's subject matter. "How can we as a community stand for this?" wrote Facebook user and former resident Magdalena Black. "This is Our Tribe and Our Family… We are STILL GRIEVING. The civil and criminal trials are STILL underway. The Souls Lost Deserve To Rest. The Families Deserve To Rest. Survivors Deserve to Rest."
The cause of the deadly blaze is still unknown, but recent developments in the case revealed that Oakland city officials had inspected the Ghost Ship venue "on numerous occasions"—including to investigate code enforcement complaints—in the years leading up to the fire, but took no action.
Outside of ripped-from-the-headlines television, the incident has had a real-life domino effect on artist communities across the country. DIY communities came under scrutiny, with spaces such as Baltimore's The Bell Foundry and Los Angeles's Purple 33 shut down by authorities due to safety violations and lack of permits. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, as a means of protecting the city's own residents of DIY spaces, announced in January an executive order ensuring safety upgrades for such venues and preventing evictions.