Oakland warehouse fire death toll rises to 33
OAKLAND, Calif. – Authorities have found at least 33 bodies after a huge fire erupted at a two-story warehouse during an electronic dance concert Friday night in Oakland.
Impact Your World has gathered some details on ways you can support the victims.
Read more: Supporting Oakland warehouse fire victims
The Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau has established a Family Assistance Center with the American Red Cross at 2425 East 12th Street in Oakland. If you are trying to locate a loved one, you may go to the center or call 510-382-3000 for information. Grief counselors and other resources will be available on site.
Facebook’s Safety Check has also been enabled to help friends and family members find out if people in the area are safe.
Professional sports teams from Oakland are joining the cause.
The Oakland A’s baseball team set up a YouCaring fundraiser and pledged to match donations up to $30,000 — a goal contributors have already surpassed. The Oakland Raiders joined their effort and will observe a moment of silence in recognition of the victims before today’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
The San Francisco Giants tweeted Saturday night that the team would support the fund started by the Oakland A’s.
The Golden State Warriors basketball team is donating $50,000 to the Unity Council in the Fruitvale district to support the victims of the fire. The team held a moment of silence before last night’s game versus the Phoenix Suns.
Rescue crews are still searching for victims Sunday in the wreckage of a converted two-story warehouse gutted by a deadly blaze during an electronic dance party.
Officials say they fear the toll could rise to 40. Because of the complexity of the rescue operation, fire officials say cadaver dogs may have to be used.
Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said emergency responders found most victims on the second floor — where the party was being held — because the single stairway had become inaccessible.
Even after firefighters put out the massive blaze, the building was deemed too unsafe for emergency responders to enter. Officials say the roof collapsed onto the second floor and then parts of that collapsed on to the first floor.
“There’s limited access to the structure,” Reed told CNN affiliate KRON-TV in San Francisco “It’s too unsafe. And not only that, there’s a lot of heavy wood from when the roof caved in that’s going to have to be removed.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called the fire an “immense tragedy” and pledged to get a “full accounting” that could be shared with the public as quickly as possible.
‘You could feel the heat of the flames’
Freelance journalist Sam Lefebvre said many people were just arriving at the warehouse when the fire started since the dance party was supposed to go very late. The warehouse is a “sort of live/work art space with a lot of old decorations and furniture,” Lefebvre told CNN. An electronic music DJ known as Golden Donna was scheduled to perform.
By the time John Evanofski arrived at 31st Avenue, giant flames lit up the night sky amid the billows of black smoke.
“You could feel the heat of the flames,” he told CNN. “Most of us were crying or unable to react. It was so hot and so terrible knowing that so many of us were still inside.”
Concerned family and friends used social media to find loved ones and offer support.
A Facebook page created for the event became a forum for friends and family of the victims who posted frantic messages seeking information about loved ones. Those who survived shared their names to show they were safe.
‘I had to let him go’
For filmmaker and photographer Bob Mulé, the warehouse was both his home and his community.
The 27-year-old Mulé told CNN more than 20 people living in the warehouse, paid rent and were all involved in the creation of the space.
On Friday night, Mule stopped upstairs to listen to some music he described as a “very tame setting.” Afterward, he headed downstairs to work on a painting. From his studio, he smelled smoke.
After seeing the flames, Mulé ran to find a fire extinguisher. He found one, but could not open the pin. When Mulé turned back to save his camera and laptop, he spotted a fellow artist who called out for help. Mulé suspected that heavy-set artist had broken his ankle after falling from the second floor.
“I was pulling him out,” said Mulé, who sustained burns from the fire. “The flames were too much. There was too much smoke and … I had to let him go.”
The Oakland ‘Ghost Ship’
The building is known as the “Ghost Ship.”
Photos posted online show an interior cluttered with drums, keyboards, guitars, clocks, ornate beds, plush sofas, mirrored dressers, tables, benches and artifacts. Exotic lamps hang from the ceiling, and paintings adorn some of the walls.
Darin Ranelletti, Oakland’s interim director of planning and building, told reporters Saturday the city had only approved permits for the building to be used as a warehouse — not for residences. City officials also had not signed off on a special permit for the event, Ranelletti said. In addition, firefighters found no evidence of sprinklers in the warehouse.
Last month the warehouse’s owners had received notification of city code violations for hazardous trash and debris, property records show. Officials had not yet completed an investigation into a November complaint for an illegal interior building structure.
CNN has reached out to the property owners for comment. Johnna Watson, Oakland police spokeswoman, said the building was not deemed a crime scene, but it was still early in the investigation.
Coping with a nightmare
More than 40 people gathered Saturday at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland for a vigil for victims. Organizers asked attendees to light a candle at the end of the service, saying flames caused pain and destruction “but tonight we light the flame for good and for peace.”
Now, as loved ones seek answers, photographer Mulé must wrestle with the reality of losing a friend and grapple with the nightmare of the horrific night.
“I tried to save my friend but I had to leave him,” Mulé said.