OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Authorities in the San Francisco Bay Area say they are prepared to deal with up to 40 deaths after a fire broke out at a warehouse party in Oakland, California.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly says Saturday that nine people are confirmed dead, and that he expects that number to rise.
Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloche-Reed says some people escaped and that between 50 and 100 people were at the warehouse at the time of the fire.
The warehouse had been partitioned into several artist studios and was packed with furniture, mannequins, lamps, and other objects. Deloche-Reed says the building didn’t have a clear exit path and that the only way out of the second floor was a makeshift stairwell made of pallets.
Fire officials say the building was not equipped with sprinklers.
Kelly says firefighters are still extinguishing hotspots from the blaze that sparked around 11:30 p.m. Friday. The cause is unclear.
Oakland firefighters tweeted video of flames pushing through the roof.
The fire chief said what sparked the fire is unclear, but that there did not appear to be sprinklers in the building.
There may have been 50 to 100 inside the building when the fire started, Deloche-Reed said.
“It was too hot, too much smoke, I had to get out of there,” Bob Mule, a photographer and artist who lives at the building and suffered minor burns, told the East Bay Times. “I literally felt my skin peeling and my lungs being suffocated by smoke. I couldn’t get the fire extinguisher to work.”
People used a Facebook page Saturday to post and seek information on family and friends who may have been in the building.
Oakland police urged those concerned about missing people to call the Alameda County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau at 510-382-3000.
The office said the coroners were also at the scene Saturday morning and unavailable for comment.