Authorities have recovered nine bodies and at least two dozen people remain unaccounted for at an Oakland warehouse that caught fire during a party late Friday night.
Alameda County sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said Saturday evening that nine people recovered were “easily accessible” to emergency responders, but others remain “seen but not recovered” inside the wreckage.
Authorities will be using heavy equipment such as cranes and excavators to breach the building at points other than the front entrance, which is blocked with debris, Kelly said. He said floodlights have been brought in to allow crews to work at the site overnight.
The fire broke out around 11:30 p.m. at 1305 31st Ave., a warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship” that was being used by an artist collective and hosted the party with musical acts Friday night.
None of the victims’ identities have been released, but Kelly said many of the victims were young adults in their 20s. He said investigators are not aware of any minors that were in there.
Kelly described the scene as “like a maze” with wreckage from the roof that collapsed onto the second floor, which collapsed onto the first floor.
He said as of 6 p.m., crews are “working on the outskirts of the building. We really haven’t gone into the internal components of the building yet.” Earlier Saturday, Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said there appeared to be only one makeshift stairwell made of wooden pallets leading from the first to second floor.
The event taking place Friday night had a page on Facebook titled “”Golden Donna 100% Silk 2016 West Coast Tour” that attracted dozens of comments today from people trying to find out information about their loved ones who are still missing.
A Family Assistance Center has been set up at 2425 E. 12th St. where family and friends can go to find out information about loved ones.
People can also call the Alameda County coroner’s bureau at (510) 382-3000 for more information.
Kelly said authorities have located “several dozen” people who were initially considered missing but have since been found. Meanwhile, others remain unaccounted for and family members remain at the assistance center waiting for more information.
The property at 1305 31st Ave. is owned by Chor N. Ng and city records show complaints were made as recently as mid-November about the site.
A notice of violation was given on Nov. 13 about “a ton of garbage piling up on the property,” with “the main building remodel (sic) for residential,” city records show.
Oakland director of planning and building Darin Ranelletti said the building was only legally permitted for use as a warehouse and that Friday’s party was not permitted by the city.
Kelly said crews will be at the site until at least Monday morning to recover the bodies inside, investigate the scene and clean up the wreckage.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said she spoke with some of the families of the victims earlier Saturday:
“It’s painful to tell them that it will be a considerable amount of time before we can give them the closure they deserve.”
A fund set up for people to donate to the victims can be found at https://www.youcaring.com/firevictimsofoaklandfiredec232016-706684. The fund had raised more than $65,000 out of its goal of $100,000 as of 4:30 p.m.
The Oakland A’s also created a fund for victims and said they are matching donations of up to $30,000. The fund at https://www.youcaring.com/oaklandfirevictimsfrom130531staveinoakland-706680#mlb-oakland had received more than $26,000 as of late this afternoon.