Video shows police inside of Oakland warehouse prior to deadly fire

Oakland fire investigation

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Prosecutors are investigating whether criminal charges should be filed in the deadly Oakland warehouse fire that left at least 36 people dead. 

Remembering the victims of the Oakland warehouse fire

CBS News is looking into the building and its owners.

Max Orh was in the building late Friday night.   

Max Orh.  CBS News

“By the time I grabbed the fire extinguisher, and ran back, no more than 15 seconds had elapsed and the entire back was engulfed in flames,” he said. 

No one was supposed to be living there, and the building was under investigation for potential code violations related to unpermitted construction inside. 

“All that I know is that we were not able to gain access to the interior of the building,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. 

Orh said he didn’t ever see inspectors visit. 

“No. And if there were, we would have let them in,” he said. 

Orh lived in the warehouse and said Oakland police have seen the inside of the building a number times. 

CBS News obtained video showing police in the warehouse in October. CBS News has been told they were there to access the roof of a neighboring building.  

Death toll from fatal Oakland fire continues to rise

Now police are trying to determine if those officers reported the living conditions to the city, according to spokesman Johanna Watson. 

“If they should notice any type of violations, if they should notice any criminal activity, we record it, we document it, we forward it,” she said. 

City records show the warehouse and the two adjacent buildings are owned by Chor Ng Trust. 

The roughly two dozen tenants paid a total of about $4,500 a month in rent. The owner has five other buildings in the area.

“The owner of this building has had significant legal advice at this point,” said Schaaf. “We assume that there are going to be many, many questions.”

Investigators believe they’ve located the origin of the fire in the back of the building. There’s still no cause, but residents said they believe it could be electrical because of all the old faulty wiring in the building.