This interview is with Richard of 1984 Printing who was affected by the recent fire in West Oakland that started in a building attached to their building. Others who live in the AK Press building, also attached to the building where the fire started, were devastated by this harrowing incident in which two people died and massive damage was caused. Approximately 30 people have been relocated at present. I wanted to raise awareness and encourage monetary support as the two DIY businesses severely affected, 1984 Printing and AK Press, are staples in our Oakland community and our international punk community. Your support is needed!
What do you need the most of right now?
Mainly financial support for us and all the other tenants here. We have never asked for help before and feel pretty uncomfortable about doing so now, but we do need it. Since the fire, people have been amazing. From the moment the fire was out everybody’s community has responded as needed and as able. From punching holes in the floor to drain the water to keeping the building secure to food and coffee or just emotional support. It has continued since with clean up and roof repair. Now we need monetary support and ideas, as well. The City of Oakland red tagged the building, and we are navigating the process to continue to keep what we think is a safe building open for AK Press and 1984 Printing, as well as the many artists that have work space here and the tenants that call this building home.
How can local punks and the community here in the Bay Area help?
Look for support funds to help with and if you know somebody displaced please reach out personally. Many of us have various levels of emotional trauma depending where they were during the fire and how they are dealing with it. Many may need a place to stay. There are various benefit shows being organized as well. Please come out, celebrate and help.
How can the rest of us support you through this nightmarish time?
Order a book from AK Press. Let us print a zine or book for you when we get up and running. Buy art from artists that were in the building. I feel like a broken record about money, but a lot of us are from the DIY and/or punk scene so we handle this shit as well as we can- that said, we do not have any extra resources at our disposal. AK Press and 1984 were built on hard work and community support so we just need a lot of that.
So, in a condensed version, what the hell happened?
At 3 a.m. Saturday morning of March 21st, there was a fire that started in the building in back of ours. A neighbor saw the smoke and called the fire department. That unit became engulfed in fire, killing the two residents and spread to the roof. It then spread to our building. Smoke detectors immediately went off inside our building (we have 180 through out the building). My wife Amy was at the shop working and heard alarms in the press room. It had filled with smoke from the unit behind us. She evacuated with the rest of our building tenants. No one was hurt in our building. The fire burned four units and through to the roof. The fire was directly above our press room and the back half of AK press. We both sustained massive water damage. 1984 lost every piece of paper and every printed job in the press room. Amazingly our equipment seems OK. But, we’ve been too busy to get going again right now. AK Press lost a lot especially in the back half of their space. The rest of their building has smoke damage to varying degrees. They are still sorting through it all. The four hardest hit were the units upstairs areas that are total losses. One unit (David and Jen’s) is completely burned from floor to ceiling. Michele’s sustained both smoke fire and water damage. The fire stopped at her unit but 2/3 of it looked destroyed. Another unit is a total loss. It was burned from the loft up but destroyed everything inside. And Jason’s unit didn’t have any fire damage but smoke and water from the sides and directly above destroyed everything he had.
What did you lose? (Sorry to ask such a traumatizing question.)
We lost many printed jobs that were waiting for bindery, numerous pallets of paper waiting to be printed on, Amy’s main computer (but not her backup!) and our copier is down. We are still assessing damages and dealing with lots of lost time and distractions. We don’t live in the space so we still have a place to live. People upstairs in our building lost everything and two died in the building in back, so that is keeping all our losses and hardships in perspective.
What are you glad made it through the fire?
Amy, my wife and partner, and our little dogs, Peanut and Honey. Business-wise, our four-color press is the most important thing and it made it through the fire.
What are your next steps right now, right this second?
We are working with our landlord to keep our building open at this moment. I’m on the phone trying to secure a bridge loan for him to help with the Red Cross payments and initial repairs. The live-in tenants are at the Red Cross at this moment learning about medium to long-term options and help that is available to them.
Where do you hope to be in a few months?
Same place and hopefully back to full production.
What was your last completed project?
Social Justice Journal. They just moved into the building this month! Stefania was amazing after the fire with hugs and offers to help as well as helping to push water out.
What were you working on at the time of the blaze?
Specious Species Issue 7, Found Paper Journal from Rowan Morrison and Louder the Room, the Darker the Scream for Timeless Infinite Light. We were working on all of them at the same time.
Why is is so important for you to print?
I have always loved the power of the small press. From the beginning, with political pamphlets to spread radical ideas, to posters and full-color art books that continue that tradition. This is also our project. Amy and I did shows, toured with bands and did lots of other work in different communities but this is all ours. We have created an amazing shop with hard work, a lot of awesome customers and caring friends.
Will you keep printing?
Yes! Send us your jobs!
Do you want to say anything?
Thank you to our friends and community. Please get smoke detectors and thanks for this opportunity. MRR and Tim have played such a huge part in my life. I’m always grateful and amazed to be a a part of it!
Thank you, Amelia!
Help out 1984 Printng at gofundme.com/1984printing