- Title: Death toll in California loft fire rises to 24, more victims expected
- Date: 4th December 2016
- Summary: OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 4, 2016) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) OAKLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT BATTALION CHIEF MELINDA DRAYTON SAYING: "Our goal was to work collaboratively with public works to breach the B side - would be the left side of the warehouse building, the fire building in order to gain access for our firefighters and Alameda County sheriffs to be able to remove debris systematically from the building to the vacant lot next to the building, literally bucket by bucket in a methodical, thoughtful, mindful and compassionate way."
- Embargoed: 19th December 2016 17:18
- Keywords: Oakland fire warehouse newser fatalities police California
- Location: OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- City: OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Reuters ID: LVA0065BGXO3R
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Recovery teams have found 24 bodies in the charred ruins of an Oakland, California loft building after a fire broke out during a weekend dance party, and the death toll is expected to rise, authorities said on Sunday (December 4).
Sergeant Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, said two dozen bodies were located as authorities sifted through the debris-filled shell of the two-story building, which was used by an artists' collective.
He told a press briefing that the death toll would likely rise in what fire officials called the deadliest blaze in the city's history.
He said the names of the victims would be released "in the coming hours" after their families were notified.
"We've only been able to do three official notifications to families. So this is going very slow for us because we have to go back to our coroner's bureau and try to identify these people," Kelly said.
Only 20 percent of the building had been searched in the past 12 hours, said Melinda Drayton, battalion chief at the Oakland Fire Department. She said the origin of the fire had yet to be determined and the cause was still unknown.
The recovery operation had been delayed for hours until workers could enter safely. The roof had collapsed onto the second floor and in some spots, the second story had fallen onto the first.
Firefighters have gone through the building searching the debris, "bucket by bucket," Drayton said.
"It was quiet, it was heartbreaking," she said, referring to the search. "To get through, what we were able to accomplish in 12 hours was a phenomenal feat. We have a lot more to go."
The warehouse, which served as a base for the Ghost Ship Artists Collective, was one of many converted lofts in the city's Fruitvale district, a mostly Latino area where rents are generally lower than in the rest of Oakland.
Many of the victims were believed to be in their 20s and 30s, and the fire sent ripples of anxiety through the Bay Area's large art and music community.
The fire erupted at about 11:30 p.m. PST on Friday (0730 GMT Saturday) during the party featuring electronic dance music that dozens of people attended.
Authorities had said on Saturday (December 3) that about 25 people were believed to be missing, but on Sunday, officials did not provide a specific number.
Authorities said they did not suspect arson, but investigators want to find out if the building, which was partitioned into artists' studios, had a history of code violations.
The party was taking place on the second floor of the building, which had just two exits, officials said. There was no evidence of any smoke detectors or sprinklers, officials said.
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