Oakland Warehouse Party Fire, One of the Deadliest in Recent History, Could Reach 'Several Dozen Fatalities'

Firefighters assess the scene where a fire tore through a warehouse party early Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Oakland
Josh Edelson/AP Photo

Firefighters assess the scene where a fire tore through a warehouse party early Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Oakland. 

The tragic fire that broke out at an electronic dance party in an Oakland, Calif., warehouse and killed at least nine, with dozens more still unaccounted for, Friday night (Dec. 2) is one of the deadliest structure fires in the United States in the last decade.

Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly told the East Bay Times on Saturday afternoon that responders were prepared for a "mass casualty event" that may reach "several dozen fatalities." At a later press conference, he stated the investigation would take up to 48 hours. The fire department first responded at about 11:30 p.m. Friday night.

No identifications have been made yet on the bodies that have been found, Kelly said. Another press conference is scheduled for 8 a.m. PT Sunday.

The two-story building, located in the 1300 block of 31st Avenue and known as the "Ghost Ship," was featuring Golden Donna's 100% Silk West Coast tour Friday night. Joel Shanahan, who performs as Golden Donna, confirmed on Facebook that he's safe.

The event's Facebook listing -- where friends and family members of those who are still unaccounted for have been posting, hoping for updates -- lists additional acts on the lineup: Cherushii, Nackt, Russell E.L. Butler, Obsidian Blade, Piano Rain (AJA Vision) and RADAR. The event was billed as taking placed as "secret East Oakland location announced day of show."

Though the building housed a group of artists and their studios, SFGATE reports it had no permits to be used as anything other than a warehouse. A Tumblr page shows several photos of the inside of the building, full of art and antiques.

An investigation into the building was actually opened on Nov. 13 after neighbors filed complaints about trash piling up outside the property and people allegedly living in the building illegally, officials said at Saturday's press conference. On Nov. 17, an investigator arrived at the warehouse but was unable to get inside the building, and the city has not confirmed people were living inside.

Fire chief Deloach Reed said it took about four hours to get the blaze under control; the building had no sprinklers and possibly no working smoke detectors, as crews did not hear them going off upon arrival. A makeshift stairwell made of pallets provided the only way out from the second floor, where the majority of the fatalities were found.

The Alameda County Arson Task Force, along with federal partners, are investigating to determine the cause of the fire, reads a statement by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

An organizer of the event who only gave the name "John" was working at the door when flames erupted, according to SFGATE. “I watched that building burn for five hours,” he said of the "tragedy, a loss of vibrant musicians and artists.”

SFGATE also points out that a glitch on the map featured on the event's Facebook page may have saved lives. The building was located at 31st Ave., yet the map pointed to 31st St. “There’s a bunch of people who didn’t show,” one attendee told the publication. “There could have been a lot more casualties.”

The Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau established a Family Assistance Center with the American Red Cross (located at 2425 East 12th St. in Oakland) for those still looking for loved ones. Family members and friends can also call 510-382-3000.

A donation page has been set up to provide assistance to the victims (and families of the victims). The Oakland A's will be matching up to $20,000 in donations. As of press time, more than $16,000 has been raised.

The ?Oakland Firefighters Twitter account showed updates from the blaze into the morning hours of Saturday (Dec. 3), including the video clip seen below of the building in flames.

Additional reporting by Whitney Phaneuf.


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