The leader of the Oakland, Calif., artists' collective destroyed last December in a raging fire that killed 36 was jailed Monday in Alameda County after being taken into custody earlier in the day. Derick Almena was arrested in a rural county just north of the San Francisco Bay Area, where he and his family moved after the Dec. 2 tragedy, but was taken from Lake County to Alameda at prosecutors' request.

Almena is expected to appear Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court to answer manslaughter charges for each of the deaths in the Dec. 2 fire, which destroyed the Ghost Ship collective in Oakland's Fruitvale district.

Some two dozen artists lived at the collective, housed in an old commercial building that was not zoned for housing.

All but one of the victims were attending an unauthorized musical performance on the second floor and were overcome by smoke after being trapped when the building's lights went out. The collective was getting electricity through an electrical cord from a neighboring building and did not appear to have had a live power connection of its own.

Not at home

Almena, 47, lived at the collective with his wife and children but they were not at home on the night of the fire. The Almenas moved to Lake County after the warehouse was destroyed, according to the East Bay Times newspaper in Oakland.

Almena was arrested by FBI agents at his new home and transferred to Santa Rita Jail in Pleasanton, the newspaper said. He was originally brought before a magistrate in Lake County before being sent to Alameda a few hours later. Neighbors said the Almena family had lived in the town of Upper Lake for about three months.

Defense attorneys said at a news conference last week that Almena was innocent and blamed the fatalities on the city of Oakland, which had allowed the warehouse to be illegally occupied for years.

Lead counsel Tony Serra, a nationally known attorney, said he was "shocked" by the decision to charge Almena when city officials were clearly neglectful.

Claim of innocence

"What they did was terribly negligent,” Serra said, claiming that Oakland firefighters had recently attended an event inside the collective and made no move to close the facility down or force it to take more safety measures.

The warehouse was filled with wood furnishings and had no sprinkler system or illuminated emergency exits, numerous news reports have alleged.

Families of the victims have filed lawsuits against Almena, property owner Chor Ng and utility company Pacific Gas & Electric seeking damages, the newspaper said. Those cases are pending and could take years to resolve.