Oakland warehouse fire leaves at least 9 dead, dozens missing
At least nine people were killed and dozens more are unaccounted for after a massive fire in a warehouse in Oakland, Calif. Friday night.
Authorities say nine bodies have been found but there are more bodies trapped in the debris that will require being “cut from the wreckage.”
At least two dozen people remain missing and police are continuing to ask the public for descriptions to try to help with the identification process.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s department said at a press conference Saturday that there will be an arson investigation, though there’s “no reason yet to suspect arson.”
The warehouse was also the subject to an investigation nearly three weeks before the blaze over reports of people living illegally in the building.
Darin Ranelletti, of the City of Oakland Planning Department, said the warehouse, labeled online as the “Oakland Ghost Ship”, had numerous complaints of trash piling up outside of the building.
Photos posted online of the warehouse before the fire showed a bohemian, loft-like interior made of wood and cluttered with beds, rugs, old sofas, pianos, paintings, turntables, statues and other items.
Officer Johnna Watson of the Oakland police department said the warehouse hasn’t been labelled a crime scene, but that could change as more information comes in. Her force is currently focused on finding the missing people, she added.
Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloche-Reed told the East Bay Times they found the bodies on the second floor and that at least 40 people are also still unaccounted for.
“Of those individuals, we don’t know if any of them went someplace else, self-transported to the hospital, we just don’t know that at this time,” Deloche-Reed said. “So, right now we have, as mentioned, the nine fatalities and we are going to continue to search the rest of the structure.”
Authorities told KTVU-TV about 50 people were inside the building, which houses a group of artists and their studios.
The fire began around 11:30 p.m. PT during a party which featured musician Golden Donna’s 100% Silk West Coast tour.
Deloche-Reed told the newspaper firefighters saw no evidence smoke detectors were activated and the building had no sprinklers.
“We still have to do a more thorough search of the building and we don’t know the potential number of other victims,” Deloche-Reed said.
“This is a true loss for the city, for the firefighters who responded, and the people who lost family and friend. Its just tragic, a real tragedy,” she said.
Friends of party-goers have been searching for their loved ones on the event page on Facebook.
WATCH: At least nine dead in California warehouse fire: firefighter official
Fifty-five firefighters are said to have fought the blaze.
The building has now been declared a crime scene, according to KPIX 5.
*With files from The Associated Press
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