OAKLAND (CBSLA.com/AP) — It was a scene of pain and sorrow Sunday in the shadow of a warehouse where dozens were killed Friday. Family, friends and strangers have only begun to process the depth of the losses.
Officials in Oakland say the death toll from a fire at the warehouse during a dance party has climbed to 33.
"People that were alive just like you and me just lost their lives," says a woman who was friends with at least 10 of the victims."They woke up, ate breakfast, ate lunch, ate dinner, went to work, went to sleep, woke up. Every day, normal lives. Just wanted to have fun. Next thing you know they can't breathe. And they burned to death."
Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly announced the latest figure at a news conference Sunday. The number increased from 24 earlier in the day, as crews continued to comb through the charred building.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf says prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation, but she did not provide specifics.
Officials say building inspectors had planned an inspection in late November but couldn't gain access to the site.
The fire ripped through a converted warehouse at about 11:30 p.m. Friday during an electronic dance music party. Officials believe 50 to 100 people may have attended the event.
Carmen Brito describes the moment her life changed forever. She and Nikki Kelber both lived in the warehouse. Brito was trying to sleep on the first floor.
"I woke up to smoke and an orange glow coming from the corner. In the time it took me to get on my coat and my shoes the entire wall was on fire," Brito said.
She was able to make it to the door.
"I was shouting for help and people started to run toward the fire and people were grabbing fire extinguishers to put it out. People who were there for the event - nobody knew what was going on. In the time that it took me to walk from the back to the front - maybe 30 seconds I was already dizzy from the smoke."
Brito and Kelber say more than 20 people lived in the warehouse at any given time. Officials say the building was not permitted for a living space. It was an artists' collective known as Oakland Ghost Ship.
Thousands of square feet were packed with furniture, art and other items. When the fire broke out most of the people inside were on the second floor for an electronic dance event - it appears the only escape route was down stairs made of wooden pallets, likely trapping dozens who would die.
"We're really starting to get deeper into the building we continue to find more victims," Kelly said. "We ask those families if they could please preserve any evidence for DNA purposes."
Oakland police urged those concerned about missing people to call the Alameda County Sheriff's Coroner's Bureau at 510-382-3000.
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