Up to 40 feared dead in California warehouse fire

Up to 40 feared dead in California warehouse fire

OAKLAND - Agence France-Presse
Up to 40 feared dead in California warehouse fire

Authorities stage on the site of a warehouse fire Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. AP photo

Fire crews in California worked into the night on Dec. 3 sifting through the remains of a warehouse gutted by a blaze during a rave party, with officials saying they fear the death toll could reach 40.

Relatives of dozens of people missing in the Dec. 2 night blaze in Oakland near San Francisco continued their anxious wait for news. Nine people are confirmed dead so far.

The rickety two-story warehouse was used by artists as a living and work space but had no license for this, officials said, nor for the electronic dance party under way when the blaze broke out.

The cause was not yet known.

Firefighters said the building seemed to have no sprinklers or smoke detectors.

Orange flames shot through the roof as the fire burned for hours and thick smoke billowed into the sky. The roof collapsed onto the second floor, which officials said was connected to the ground floor only by a makeshift system of wooden pallets.

Firefighters had to pull out of the building to shore it up when part of the fragile structure and some of the walls began to move.

Sergeant Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s department told an evening news conference that about two dozen people who were reported missing had been located.

But at least two dozen more remain missing, he said.

“We don’t know how far into the process we are, because we don’t absolutely have a number of people that we know are deceased inside of there,” he said.

An official at his office, who declined to be named, said early yesterday the death toll could rise to 40 or even higher.

Most of those who perished in the blaze that started about 11:30 pm were thought to have died on the upper floor of the two-story warehouse known as Oakland Ghost Ship, said Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed.
“It must have been a very fast-moving fire,” she said.

The electronic dance music party was attended by an estimated 50 to 100 people.