Oakland Warehouse Fire Death Toll Rises to 36, Recovery Efforts Temporarily Halted Due to Safety Concerns
As investigators continue the painstaking process of picking through the rubble of a warehouse in Oakland that erupted into fire on Friday night during an underground dance party, at a briefing on Monday morning (Dec. 5), Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Deputy Tya Modste said the death toll in the incident had climbed to 36. "We have located and recovered 36 victims," Modste said. "Of the 36, 11 have been positively identified and their family members have been appropriately identified," she said. The list of names of the dead was not updated at the press conference.
Oakland Fire Department spokesperson Chief Teresa DeLoach Reed added that her department was asked by the ATF and local investigators to halt their recovery work in the back of the building at 10 p.m. PT on Sunday based on their belief that they have identified the section of the building where the fire started. That investigative team was expected to begin their probe of the suspected area on Monday morning in an effort to determine the origin of the deadly blaze.
She also noted that after detecting on Sunday night that the front wall of the building was leaning in, a full work stoppage was put in place to protect the lives of fire and police crews on site, an action that halted the efforts to recover additional victims' bodies. Structural engineers were expected on site on Monday morning to develop a plan to shore up the building in order to get the body recovery efforts back on track. "We hope that we'll be back in the building between 12 o'clock and two o'clock today to continue the recovery effort," she said.
DeLoach Reed said that officials have now searched 70 percent of the building area, but that "we are no closer to finding a cause [of the fire] and we absolutely believe that the number of fire fatalities will increase." On Sunday, Oakland major Mayor Libby Schaaf said she had “activated the criminal investigation team” following one of the deadliest structure fires in the United States in the last decade. A relief fund for victims of the tragic event has raised more than $100,000.
In response to a question about whether Oakland Police Department officers had found any fire code violations during response calls to the warehouse in the months before the fire, Oakland Police Dept. spokesperson Officer Johnna Watson said the department is reviewing body cam footage and conducting a "methodical" probe into that issue.