Update, 9 a.m. Tuesday: Heart-rending reports of victims' last moments are beginning to emerge.
Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said that some of the victims texted relatives, "I'm going to die," and "I love you."
Rescue crews also found bodies of people "protecting each other, holding each other," Kelly said.
Update, 6 a.m. Tuesday: The number of victims is not expected to rise beyond 36, said Alameda County Deputy Sheriff Tya Modeste.
Four additional victims were positively identified overnight and their families were notified. Right now, 26 victims have been positively identified, nine bodies are tentatively identified, and one body is unidentified.
Crews were able to resume clearing the building about 2:20 a.m. Tuesday after suspending the search to remove an unsafe wall.
Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Robert Lipp says crews have cleared 85 percent of the Ghost Ship warehouse with one corner still inaccessible because it is unstable. Crews hope to stabilize it Tuesday and continue their search.
Update, 10 p.m. Monday: Officials have released the names of 10 more victims of the fire at an Oakland warehouse:
- Em Bohlka, 33, Oakland
- Micah Danemayer, 28, Oakland
- Chelsea Dolan, 33, San Francisco
- Feral Pines, 29, Berkeley
- Alex Ghassan, 35, Oakland
- Michela Gregory, 20, South San Francisco
- Edmund Lapine, 34, Oakland
- Jennifer Morris, 21, Foster City
- Benjamin Runnels, 32, Oakland
- Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, 31, Oakland
Their families have been notified, officials said in a statement. A total of 22 victims have now been positively identified. Another 10 victims have been tentatively identified and three more need scientific identification.
The names of seven victims were released earlier, and the name of one 17-year-old minor is being withheld.
"The City of Oakland extends condolences to the families who have received the dreadful news that one of their loved ones perished in the fire," the statement read.
Update, 7 p.m. Monday: Authorities continue the recovery effort at the scene of the warehouse fire in Oakland, removing debris "bucket by bucket" as they search for additional victims and prosecutors begin to investigate the deadly blaze.
The death toll stands at 36. Of those, 33 have been tentatively identified and 16 families have been notified. Three of the victims are foreign nationals from South Korea, Guatemala and Finland, said Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern. Autopsies have been performed on 22 victims, with more scheduled for tomorrow.
"Today is the day that more than two dozen families are going to learn of their loved one's loss," Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said at a press conference. "Today is the day that more than two dozen families are going to start an entirely new life. For them, this is Day 1 of this incident.”
Ahern said coroners were working from a list of about 50 people who were reported missing, but not all of them are necessarily linked to the event or the venue. "At this time, we’re not anticipating any more huge numbers" of victims, he said.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has activated the criminal investigation team, said District Attorney Nancy O'Malley. Once that happened, "in essence the scene became a potential crime scene."
Though it's too early to speculate on charges, those could range from involuntary manslaughter to murder, depending on what their investigation reveals, O'Malley said.
"We’re looking at two things: One is whether or not there is any criminal liability attached to this fire, and secondly, if there is criminal liability, against whom? And that is not clear right now," she said.
Some interviews have already been conducted and the DA was receiving tips from the community about the site. O'Malley provided a hotline for people to call if they believe they have information relevant to the investigation: 877-288-2882.
"We will leave no stone unturned," she said. "We are following up on every single lead."
Crews have cleared 75 percent of the debris, said Darin White, deputy chief of the Field Operations Bureau at the Oakland Fire Department. He showed infrared images of the building taken Monday that show heat still contained in some of the steel beams.
Update, 12 p.m. Monday: Work has resumed at the site after a delay due to a leaning exterior wall at the front of the warehouse, said Johnna Watson, Oakland Police Department spokeswoman.
Update, 11:30 a.m. Monday: Friends and family have organized a vigil tonight at 8 p.m. at the Lake Merritt Pergola.
Update, 7 a.m. Monday: Crews have recovered an additional three victims, raising the death toll from the fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse to 36.
Of the victims, 11 people have been identified and their families notified, said Deputy Sheriff Tya Modeste of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. Names of seven victims were released Sunday night, and the others won't be released until families have had the chance to update other relatives.
"We absolutely believe the number of fire fatalities will increase," said Oakland Fire Battalion Fire Chief Melinda Drayton.
Fire crews have covered 70 percent of the building in the recovery effort. They stopped work late Sunday on a part of the site where local investigators and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives "feel very strongly" they have found the area of the fire's origin, Drayton said. That part of the warehouse has been quarantined.
"Based on the significant charring and damage in the building, we've got some areas where the steel is actually twisted and wrapped in the back of the building," she said of the area believed to be where the fire started.
"Potentially," during the party, "the dance floor was just above" that area, Drayton said.
Just after midnight, crews had to stop work at the site when a 3-inch lean in an exterior wall was found at the front of the warehouse.
"Working under a wobbly, potentially collapsing exterior wall is extremely dangerous," Drayton said.
Structural engineers and contract workers were expected to arrive soon at the site and make a game plan for re-entering the site. They hope to be back in by noon, she said.
Authorities were "no closer to finding a cause" for the blaze, Drayton said, and when asked about the temperature of the fire, she described it as "extremely hot."
KQED News morning anchor Brian Watt spoke with East Bay desk reporters Sandhya Dirks and Devin Katayama Monday morning about the recovery efforts. Listen below.
KQED News morning anchor Brian Watt spoke with Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, whose district contains the Ghost Ship warehouse. He spoke about code violations in these types of buildings across Oakland. Listen below.
KQED News morning anchor Brian Watt spoke again with East Bay desk reporters Sandhya Dirks and Devin Katayama Monday morning about the latest. Listen below.
Update, 6:20 p.m. Sunday:
The Alameda County Sheriff's Office Coroner's Bureau has provided names of seven of the victims in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland. An eighth, a 17-year-old minor, will not be named. The office indicated the families of the victims have been notified. The victims with their ages and home cities are:
- Cash Askew, 22, Oakland
- David Clines, 35, Oakland
- Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, Coronado
- Sara Hoda, 30, Walnut Creek
- Travis Hough, 35, Oakland
- Donna Kellogg, 32, Oakland
- Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, Hayward
We will provide more information about those killed in the blaze over the next couple of days.
Update, 4 p.m. Sunday:
The death toll from the fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland has risen to 33, according to Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly. He said during a press conference that the cause of the fire is still unknown.
Seven names of the victims will be released today. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the search operation will continue 24/7.
Schaaf said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley has activated a criminal investigation team for any potential investigation into the fire. Only O'Malley can launch a criminal investigation.
Schaaf said it is far too early for officials to speculate about the cause of the blaze.
"The scope of this tragedy is tremendous. We have many, many witnesses to interview," Schaaf said. "We are in the process of doing that."
Sgt. Kelly said recovery crews have broken the warehouse into four quadrants for search purposes and victims have been found in every quadrant. Kelly said more than 60 percent of the warehouse still needs to be searched.
Kelly said teenagers were among those killed. He added that some victims come from other countries and that there are attempts to contact families of the victims in Europe and Asia with the help of the State Department. Kelly also confirmed the son of a sheriff's deputy was among the victims.
"This tragedy has hit very close to home for our agency," Kelly said. "One of our deputies that we work with lost his son in this fire, and so we're still dealing with that as we continue to deal with the other victims. This has affected us as first responders. We weren't really prepared to talk about that right now, but we're dealing with that, and our family, and our department is hurting from that."
The coroner's office reiterated that family and friends should preserve any objects that may contain victims' DNA, such as combs, brushes or toothbrushes for identification purposes.
Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, whose district contains the Ghost Ship warehouse, said city officials are beginning to have discussions about these type of buildings.
"My responsibility to the citizens, we do need to enforce the codes that we have," Gallo said in an interview with KQED's Devin Katayama. "Certainly we've recognized we should have been more assertive in the past."
Katayama also spoke with Oakland resident Chris Dunn, who said he had attended parties at the Ghost Ship warehouse.
“These are places that people go that don't always fit into the legal and above-board clubs,” Dunn said. “These places people go to that can't afford to go to some of those other bigger, above-board events. These are places you're just not turned away for lack of funds.”
Update, 3 p.m. Sunday:
Officials are holding a press conference at 3 p.m. to discuss the latest in the Oakland warehouse fire that has killed at least 30 individuals. Watch it live below.
Update, 12:50 p.m. Sunday:
The death toll from the fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland has risen to 30, according to Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly.
"That is an astronomical number," he said. "We’re still not done."
Kelly said crews are getting deeper into the building and expects to find more victims. He also asked families to preserve any potential sources of victims' DNA to identify bodies.
Update, 12:15 p.m. Sunday:
From the Associated Press:
A chaplain who met with families trying to determine if their loved ones are among the dead in a fire at a dance party says the uncertainty is difficult to bear.
Oakland Fire Department chaplain Jayson Landeza said Sunday the families want to be able to have some kind of closure. Landeza met with the families at an Alameda County Sheriff's Office in Oakland that has been turned into a family resource center. At least a dozen people have gathered there.
Officials said this morning that they have searched only 20 percent of the charred remains of the building, where they now say 24 people died after a fire erupted during a dance party. The number of dead is expected to rise.
Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly says officials have been in touch with the families of three of the dead.
Update, 8:30 a.m. Sunday: We're continuing to get more information on the deadly fire that erupted at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland overnight Friday.
At least 24 bodies have now been located in recovery efforts, said Alameda County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Ray Kelly.
"We will release the names of the victims later today," he said. "We anticipate the number of victims will rise -- it will increase."
Rescue workers removed "bucket by bucket" of debris overnight, covering 20 percent of the building. They were able to successfully breach the east side of the warehouse to gain more access to the site.
"It was quiet," Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton said of the workers and the work. "It was heartbreaking to get through."
She said she believed it to be "the most deadly fire" in Oakland's history. The cause of the fire is still being investigated: "We don't believe that we have even gotten close to the origin of the fire," she said.
Update, 8 p.m. Saturday: Many families are awaiting word on loved ones who might have attended the dance party at the Oakland warehouse where a fire broke out overnight Friday, killing at least nine people.
One of the parents waiting is Kim Gregory, mother of Michela Gregory, a 20-year-old student at San Francisco State University. Michela went with her boyfriend, Alex Vega, to the party. Gregory said after learning about the fire that she immediately came to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, where other families of the missing were gathered.
“We were too shaken up, My brother had to drive us over here,” said Gregory, of South San Francisco. “We're just holding on trying to get all the information we can. We're not getting very much, so we're just waiting here as long as we can.”
Gregory said her daughter was an honor roll student studying child development for children with special needs.
“She’s very intelligent,” she said. “She carries her heart on her shoulder.”
Gregory said she is holding out hope that rescuers say "they found some badly burned alive people somewhere in a hospital -- where I can go see her and bring her home.”
Update, 7 p.m. Saturday: We continue to get more updates about the deadly fire that struck the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland overnight Friday.
Nine bodies have been recovered from the scene and at least two dozen people remain unaccounted for, Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said.
"We still have a lot of families that are in that unknown stage," he said at a press conference. "They are grieving and remain at our family assistance center."
Recovery efforts will continue overnight, Kelly said, noting it is expected to take 48 hours, at a minimum. A crane, excavators, dumpster trucks and flood lights will be used.
"We know there are bodies that are in there that we can’t get to, that have been seen but not recovered," he said. The work has to move slowly "because when we’re pulling debris, we want to make sure that there are not victims trapped in that debris."
The building has engineering problems and structural issues that have made the recovery and identification process more difficult -- challenges that will get tougher in the dark, Kelly said.
"There are a lot of areas that we cannot get to, that we need to cut away parts of the building and use excavation techniques" on, he said. "That is more difficult at night because you can't see things you would normally see in the day."
Authorities have located several people who were believed to have been missing but still don't have a precise number of victims.
"We don't even know how far into the process that we are," Kelly said.
Update, 5 p.m. Saturday: We have more information about the deadly blaze at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland overnight Friday.
Four bodies have been removed from the scene, said
Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly. Authorities are taking fingerprints in hopes that it will help to identify the victims.
And there remain "at least a couple dozen people that we need to figure out their whereabouts."
The work is slow going, Kelly said, noting that it's "very bad wreckage," "very twisted debris."
"Floors have collapsed on top of floors. The roof has collapsed," he said at a press conference. "There are more victims, we would imagine, under that wreckage."
Authorities may bring in cadaver dogs or robot technologies to help them get into the "places and crevices we can't get in."
Families and friends gathered at the Alameda County Sheriff's Office in Oakland to await word about their loved ones.
Dozens of people walked in and out of the office Saturday afternoon, many crying, consoling each other or keeping their eyes focused on the sidewalk. Families have gotten little information since firefighters have had so much difficulty sifting through the wreckage.
Capt. Purnell Hall, a pastor with the Salvation Army, delivered hot chicken, couscous and salad to the office, enough for 50 people for lunch.
"Everyone's emotional right now," he said of the families and friends inside. "I hope that, in time, they can get the answers they need. I just wanted to come down and love on them right now."
Update 3 p.m. Saturday: We continue to learn more information about the fire that took place at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland on Friday night in what Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf described as "a terrible tragedy."
"It is a very complicated and devastating scene," Schaaf said, asking for the public's patience while officials undertake a "very thorough and methodical investigation to discern what in fact happened."
"It's going to take us time."
Prior to speaking with reporters, Schaaf met with victims' families who continue to wait for word about their loved ones.
"It was painful to tell them that it will be a considerable amount of time before we can give them the information that they deserve," Schaaf said.
Recovery and identification efforts continue to be delayed because of structural instabilities, and as of midday Saturday, only one body had been removed from the building.
Mark Hoffmann, operations chief for the Oakland Fire Department, said the scene continues to be "too lively" and that firefighters backed out of the structure after seeing the walls move. Firefighters planned to re-enter the building after securing unstable walls.
Hoffmann said that when firefighters initially arrived on the scene, they were able to enter the building and got about 20 yards in with handlines.
"We knew there were people in there and we were trying to get them out," he said. "It was just a labyrinth of little areas."
He said there appeared to be a single staircase, apparently constructed out of wood. When firefighters arrived, that staircase was on fire and "not viable to be used to access the second floor." There was also no evidence of sprinklers and the building reportedly had two exits, according to Hoffmann.
Initial reports show that the roof collapsed onto the second floor and "in many areas, the second floor collapsed onto the first floor, further complicating our efforts to enter the building," Hoffmann said.
Darin Ranelletti, director of planning and building for the City of Oakland, said, "the last designated use of the building was as a warehouse." The city had received reports that people were living there but officials were still investigating and trying to confirm that.
After receiving complaints of blight and unpermitted construction on the property, an investigation was opened on Nov. 13. On Nov. 17, the city attempted to send an investigator to the building, but were unable to enter the premises, Ranelletti said.
Ranelletti added that a city-issued permit would have been required to throw a party at the address and that none had been issued for Friday night.
The warehouse is owned by Chor Ng and is owned through the Chor N S Ng trust. Chor Ng has owned the building since 1997, and is listed as owner of a total of nine buildings in Oakland, including two near the warehouse: 1305 31st Ave. and 3073 International Blvd.
The L.A. Times contacted Ng's daughter, Eva, who said the warehouse was leased as studio space for an art collective and not used as a dwelling.
More from The Times:
"Nobody lived there," she told The Times, adding: "It was an art collective."
She said she had asked her leaseholders about the issue and been reassured nobody lived in the building. "They confirmed multiple times. They said sometimes some people worked through the night but that is all," she said.
The second floor had two exits, both reached by wooden stairs, she said, adding she believes it also had smoke detectors. She was not familiar with comments by fire officials that the stairs consisted of stacked packing crates.
Ng said her mother felt terrible about the tragedy.
Update, 1:30 p.m. Saturday: Families of missing people continue to wait for word of loved ones as firefighters wait to enter the building.
Daniel Vega, 36, was on break at work in Pittsburg when he heard about the fire on TV. His younger brother Alex, 22, loves going to raves and told their family he was going to a rave in Oakland last night with his girlfriend. Vega says her car is still parked at San Bruno BART Station, and his brother hasn't been answering his phone.
"He would never not respond," Vega said.
Vega doesn't know if his brother was at the party last night. He came to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office in Oakland, but was frustrated that he couldn't get any information.
"I want to go over there," Vega said, of the site of the fire. "Give me some gloves. I got work shoes. I'm ready. Let me find my brother."
Inside the building, Vega said there were about 30 family members of people who are missing. He said the mood was "very somber."
"People are crying everywhere," he said.
The American Red Cross and Salvation Army are providing food to families as they wait for news of their loved ones. Social workers and chaplains are also on hand, available to talk.
Accounts of the fire from people at the building last night have appeared online.
A relief fund for victims has been started. Over $21,000 has been raised so far, from over 500 donors.
Update, 12:15 p.m. Saturday: Firefighters continue to have difficulty accessing the inside of the building and are currently in the beginning stages of the "recovery and identification process," according to Alameda County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ray Kelly.
"It's a task just to get through the front door because of all the wreckage and debris," Kelly said at a noon press conference Saturday.
Kelly added that there will be an arson investigation, but there is currently no reason to suspect arson and the building is not currently deemed a crime scene.
"This is just a tragedy and there are no easy answers right now."
Kelly also provided some information about the people who were in the building last night. "Some of these folks are not from the United States, they are visitors. A lot of the victims are young people, people in their 20s to 30s. They have families outside of the area who we are talking to."
"We have nine confirmed victims. We believe there are more victims, but we’re not going to get into the numbers game at this point.”
Kelly stated that not many victims were transported to area hospitals. "People either made it out or didn't make it out."
"There are a lot of questions that are being asked: What is the history of the building? What was the occupancy of the building? Any code violations?" OPD spokeswoman Johnna Watson said. "All of those questions about permits, calls to the location, we've already started the investigation and are looking into it."
The building at 1315 31st Avenue in East Oakland was subject to two recent building code enforcement complaints, according to city Planning and Building Department records available online.
The department received a housing habitability complaint on Nov. 14 alleging illegal interior construction. A building inspector was unable to verify the complaint on Nov. 17.
On Nov. 13, the department received a complaint about “a ton of garbage piling up on the property” and alleging that “some of [the] trash was hazardous.”
“The yard became a trash collection site and the main building was remodel (sic) for residential,” the complaint says.
An inspector verified the complaint on Nov. 17 and notice of violation was sent on Nov. 21, according to online records.
Update, 10:55 a.m. Saturday: A death toll of nine is expected to rise in the coming hours and days as firefighters sift through the debris of an East Oakland fire that started during a warehouse party Friday night.
"This is a very rough day for the City of Oakland," Alameda County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said during a Saturday morning press conference. "This is not easy. This hits very close to home for a lot of us."
Kelly said he didn't want to speculate on how many were killed in the fire that started around 11:30 p.m. Friday inside the building known as the "Ghost Ship" at 1315 31st Ave.
"We’re prepared to deal with several dozen fatalities as a result of this fire," he said. "We can confirm this morning nine deceased. We expect that number to go up when we’re able to go inside."
Firefighters extinguished the bulk of the blaze by daybreak Saturday morning, but were still fighting hot spots just after 10 a.m. The building's roof collapsed onto its second floor, Kelly said.
"We have to go in there piece by piece and move wood and timbers and debris," he said.
Approximately 25 people were missing Saturday morning, but that number could include some already confirmed dead, Kelly said.
"We’re trying to make sense of all that chaos," he said, urging people with information about those attending the event featuring musician Golden Donna's 100% Silk West Coast tour to contact officials at (510) 382-3000. An assistance center for those seeking loved ones in person has also been established at 2425 E. 12th Street in Oakland.
Taylor Selby was among those searching for friends Saturday morning who may have been at the event. She told KQED's Sukey Lewis that some people in her group talked about going to the Ghost Ship party Friday night, and that's the last she heard from them.
"This is a really big shock," she said.
Though Selby wasn't at the party Friday night, she said she's been in the building known for its chaotic interior before.
"It looked like it was a portal to a different dimension," she said. "There were artifacts from all over the world. ... It kind of felt like a flea market."
At this point, the cause of the fire is unknown, as is whether the building's design contributed to casualties.
"We’re going to need to talk to people who were in there and may have seen things," Sgt. Kelly said, "but right now we’re not there yet."
Officials plan to give hourly updates throughout the day Saturday.
Update 9:17 a.m. Saturday:
Family and friends of people who attended a warehouse party in East Oakland Friday night are searching for unaccounted loved ones in the aftermath of a three-alarm fire that killed at least nine.
Coroners were preparing for more fatalities Saturday.
Fire officials said that about 50 people were inside the building known as the Ghost Ship at 1315 31st Ave. when the fire started at about 11:30 p.m. Friday. The building had no sprinklers.
"It was too hot, too much smoke, I had to get out of there," Bob Mule, a photographer and artist who lives at the building and suffered minor burns, told the East Bay Times. "I literally felt my skin peeling and my lungs being suffocated by smoke. I couldn't get the fire extinguisher to work."
People used a Facebook page Saturday to post and seek information on family and friends who may have been in the building.
Oakland police urged those concerned about missing people to call the Alameda County Sheriff's Coroner's Bureau at 510-382-3000.
Original Post 8:19 a.m. Saturday:
OAKLAND, Calif. — Fire officials say at least nine people died in a blaze that broke out during a party in a warehouse late Friday night in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloche-Reed says at least another 13 people are unaccounted for as of Saturday morning.
Deloche-Reed says the fire department still must do a thorough search of the building.
The fire started about 11:30 p.m. Friday. It tore through the building during an event featuring musician Golden Donna's 100% Silk West Coast tour, the East Bay Times reports.
Authorities told KTVU-TV about 50 people were in the building, which houses a group of artists and their studios.
People concerned about loved ones missing in the fire should contact the Alameda County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau 510-382-3000, the East Bay Times reported.