33 Party-Goers Dead in Oakland Warehouse Fire, Death Toll Expected to Rise
33 party-goers have already been reported dead from a fire that broke out in an Oakland warehouse very early Saturday morning (Dec. 3) and the death toll is expected to rise.
Billboard confirmed the details of a press conference that took place early Sunday morning.
According to the available information, only 20 percent of the building has been searched so far. Alameda Country Sheriff Ray Kelly reported that the number has risen to 24 dead earlier today, with the previous nine victims already having been removed from the wreckage.
Kelly reports that three families have already been notified over the loss of a loved one, although the victims remain anonymous in the media. Oakland officials have personally informed each family.
Officials reports say that the fire is not under criminal investigation at this time.
Oakland Fire Chief Melinda Drayton says officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, saying, “We don’t believe we’ve gotten close to the point of origin of the fire.”
The warehouse was known as the “Ghost Ship” and was a series of artist studios. The fire reportedly broke out during an electronic music party held in a large open space on the second floor of the warehouse, only accessible by a wooden staircase.
USA Today reported further details of the fire, with Kelly speaking about the death, commenting that “The number will go up. Firefighters are tired, exhausted. This is very emotional.”
Drayton further said that, “This will be a long and arduous process. We want to make sure we are respecting the victims and their families and ensuring our firefighters’ safety.”
The “Ghost Ship” warehouse was located in Fruitvale, an area with a large Latino population only a few miles southeast of downtown.
Photographer and filmmaker Chris Nechodom, 30, reported that he had been visiting a friend on the first floor when the fire broke out. He initially thought it was coming from a fog machine, and began to shout so that guests would be able to find their way out once he realized what was going on. He left once he had inhaled too much smoke.
The featured artist at the party was Golden Donna, which is a stage name for Wisconsin-based musician Joel Shanahan. He reportedly watched as the building burned and was torn up by the event, choosing to cut his West Coast tour early.