Death toll from Oakland warehouse fire climbs as instability hinders search
The death toll continues to rise as San Francisco Bay Area officials seek answers to explain the horrific fire that tore through a warehouse party in a shared artist space known as the “Ghost Ship” in Oakland, California, on Friday night. As of Monday morning, 36 people were confirmed dead, with about a quarter of the building yet to be searched as unstable conditions prompted a work stoppage late Sunday, USA Today reported.
Here’s what we know so far:
- Investigators believe they have located the area where the fire originated, but Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach-Reed said they are “no closer to finding a cause.”
- An estimated 50 to 100 people were in the warehouse when the fire broke out, officials said. “It appears that either you got out or you got trapped inside,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly said Saturday, the Associated Press reported.
- Rescue efforts have been hampered by the building’s makeshift and unsound structure. ‘We have to move slow and judiciously,” said Kelly. “We know there are bodies in there that we cannot get to… We don’t know how many people were inside when this happened.”
- Oakland Fire Chief Deloach Reed said the second-floor exit was through a rickety staircase made of wooden pallets. She said the building was not equipped with sprinklers or alarms.
- City records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times indicated that the building was not up to local construction-code standards, and there had been a number of complaints lodged against the building this year, including unpermitted construction on the property and piles of trash.
- The building was a live-and-work art space, divided into numerous artist studios. Carmen Brito, a writer and artist who’d lived at the Ghost Ship for the last 11 months, described the space in an interview with Thump as “a shipwreck of just old wood and Balinese beds and all of these statues and shrines.” “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Brito said.
- It is still not clear what started the fire. The site has not been labeled a crime scene, but officials said they were not ruling anything out.
With a large portion of the building still to be searched, rescue teams have long days ahead of them.