Warehouse death toll at 33
Victims range from teenagers to over 30; facility rarely had water
oakland, calif.» The death toll from a fire that tore through a warehouse hosting a late-night dance party climbed to 33 on Sunday as firefighters painstakingly combed through rubble for others believed to still be missing.
Less than half of the charred remains of the partly collapsed structure had been searched, and crews clearing debris were expected to find more bodies as they advanced, Alameda County Sheriff ’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said.
Officials said they have identified seven people who were killed.
Among them is Donna Kellogg, according to her father, Keith Slocum. He declined to comment.
Kelly said those killed range in age from teenagers to 30-plus years old.
Anxious family members who feared the worst gathered at the sheriff’s office to await word on their loved ones. They were told they may have to provide DNA samples to help identify remains.
The building known as the “Ghost Ship” had been carved into artist studios and was an illegal home for a rotating cast of a dozen or more people, according to former denizens who said it was a cluttered death trap with few exits, piles of wood and a mess of snaking electric cords.
“If you were going there for a party, you wouldn’t be aware of the maze that you have to go through to get out,” said Danielle Boudreaux, a former friend of the couple who ran the warehouse.
As many as 100 people were there for a party Friday night when the fire broke out just before midnight. Fire officials were still investigating the cause of the blaze, but they said clutter fueled the flames, there were no sprinklers inside and few exits to escape.
Boudreaux identified the operators of the Satya Yuga collective as Derick Ion Almena and Micah Allison.
She had a falling out with Almena when she convinced Allison’s parents and sister about a year ago that the warehouse was a dangerous place for the couple’s three children to live.
The couple rented out five recreational vehicles and other nooks on the ground floor as living spaces. A rickety makeshift staircase led to a second floor where concerts were held. Former residents said there frequently was no electricity or running water.
Oakland planning officials opened an investigation last month after repeated complaints from neighbors who said trash was piling up and people were illegally living in the building zoned as a warehouse.