On Friday, a fire broke out in a converted warehouse space in Oakland where people were attending a party. Alameda Country sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly told the Los Angeles Times they have recovered nine bodies so far and are expecting up to 40 casualties.
Kelly went on to say they are not sure the cause of the fire at the moment. While they do not suspect it was arson, they are not ruling it out and have not designated the area a crime scene. Cleanup duties have already begun, but those may be prolonged as the roof collapsed after the fire. To combat that, officials are using drones with thermal imaging to search the area.
The warehouse in question, called Oakland Ghost Ship, was known to be a artists colony where many people could stay and work. Artist Bob Mule said while attending the party the atmosphere became too hot and even tried to help put it out:
“It was too hot, too much smoke. I had to get out of there. I literally felt my skin peeling and my lungs being suffocated by smoke. I couldn’t get the fire extinguisher to work.”
Conditions of the Oakland Ghost Ship did not appear to be in excellent shape as Deloach Reed told the East Bay Times the warehouse had a makeshift stairwell and it did not include any smoke detectors or fire sprinklers. Local authorities are urging anyone who attended the party to contact them in help them assess how many people were there and possibly how many perished inside.