Home / National News / Death Toll from Oakland Fire Reaches 36 and Could Continue to Rise

 

(OAKLAND, Calif.) — The death toll from the Oakland, California, warehouse fire has now climbed to 36 as authorities continue to discover more bodies — some of them of teens possibly younger than 17 — after a blaze broke out during a dance party in the building that housed artist studios.

The Oakland Fire Department has searched 70 percent of the charred building so far but had to stop this morning because of unsafe conditions, Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed told Good Morning America Monday. They plan to resume their search for victims later Monday.

“The unfortunate reality of this somber Monday morning is that we’re anticipating additional bodies being recovered within the structure,” Reed told GMA Monday morning. “We’re at approximately 70 percent of coverage in terms of the area that we’re able to search, and the 30 percent that’s left is 12 to 15 feet high with debris.”

When Reed spoke, 33 bodies had been found, and the number has now risen by three. Of the 36 victims, 11 have been positively identified, authorities said Monday morning.

The Oakland Fire Department first responded to reports of a structure fire at the warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship” around 11:32 p.m. Friday night. Reed told reporters the facility appeared to function as a residential building that hosted a makeshift artists’ studio, as well as parties like the one that took place Friday night.

Authorities Sunday asked families with missing loved ones who attended the party to preserve DNA samples as a way of confirming the identities of those who died in the blaze, and the District Attorney’s Office launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

Reed said Monday morning the history of the building is being examined for clues about how the tragedy took place.

“The city of Oakland is still looking at the history with the building. … We’ve got a vibrant community in Oakland that we embrace and we obviously want to make sure that we’re preventing any disasters like this in the future,” Reed said.

The Oakland-based weekly newspaper Eastbay Express has previously blamed gentrification and rising rents in the Bay Area for putting the Northern California region’s counter-cultural arts scene in a crisis of space and money.

Authorities said Monday morning that firefighters were encountering obstacles in their search due to the precarious nature of the building’s structure.

Reed said Monday firefighters are taking mental health breaks as a way of coping with the exhausting and traumatic job they are undertaking.

“We set up at our union hall yesterday for the anticipation of many firefighters that just wanted to kind of watch football together and chill, eat some pizza, debrief with peers before going home to their families. Sometimes it helps to kind of offload those emotions before bringing it home,” Reed told GMA.

“We’ve got our peer-support group off the scene, available offsite. We have an incredible number of new firefighters who are realizing the somber effect of a very dangerous fire and the tragic loss in our community.”

Rain is expected in the region on Wednesday, a circumstance that could further complicate recovery efforts for firefighters.

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