At a two-story building in Oakland’s Fruitvale District, at least nine people are dead and more than two dozen others are unaccounted for. Officials say many of the victims were in their 20s.
Flames tore through the converted warehouse during an electronic music party late Friday night. Crews attacked the blaze from every angle as fire and smoke poured through windows and walls.
Dozens struggled to escape the crowded space.
“We tried to figure out where the smoke was coming from and then we saw where the fire was - it was on the back left corner of the space - and starting yelling and trying to get everyone out,” said Bob Mule, a resident artist in the building. “It all happened really quick.”
After the fire broke out, Mule and a friend split ways.
“I haven’t seen him, and there’s been flames shooting out of the building for the past 30 minutes,” Mule said. “I hope he’s OK.”
As emergency crews sift through the debris, Alameda sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly says they expect the death toll to rise.
“We’re prepared for a mass casualty event,” Kelly said. “I’m not going to throw out numbers here at this point but we’re prepared to deal with several dozen fatalities as a result of this fire.”
Daylight aerials show a gutted building -- and body bags. Crews used drones to search for any remaining hot spots.
Family and friends posted messages on the party’s Facebook page, looking for missing loved ones. Some wrote messages of hope; others used the page to let friends know they’re safe.
At an information center, friends waited, desperate to find out if their loved one made it out alive.
“I want to be there - give me some gloves,” said Dan Vega. “I got work shoes, I’m ready - let me find my brother. That’s all I want.”
The coroner’s office has been removing bodies throughout the day. Authorities set up tents and drapes to shield the view from the public.
Firefighters say the warehouse interior was walled off into dozens of separate artist space, and there are questions about whether those units were up to code.