OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The official death toll in the Oakland Ghost Ship Warehouse fire grew to 33 mid-day Sunday after firefighters spent the night meticulously searching the burned-out wreckage of the dilapidated two-story building that served as an illegal music venue.

Officials asked families of those feared dead to preserve any DNA evidence they may have, including hair or tooth brushes.

At a 3 p.m. news conference Sunday, officials said firefighters were able to open access to the building and had searched 40 percent of the structure for victims.

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Deadly Oakland Warehouse Fire

“It was quiet, it was heartbreaking,” Oakland Fire Dept. battalion chief Melinda Drayton said of the search.

She said debris was being removed bucket-by-bucket from the burned out remains of the building with the search of 20 percent taking 12 hours.

Drayton said 10 of the new victims were discovered near the center of the building where the roof had collapsed.

Of those victims recovered, seven had been identified with three families notified overnight, Kelly said.

“This is very hard work and it’s very slow,” Sgt. Kelly said of the recovery process. Kelly said he expected the number of victims to rise.

Kelly said one of the victims was as young as 17, but they believed most of the victims were in their 20’s or 30’s. He also said some of the victims were from Europe, and Asia, and that they were working with the state department to notify embassies in those countries.

Sheriff’s officials have spoken to most of the family members of the victims, according to Kelly.

One of the victims was the son of an Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy.

The death toll from the Oakland fire is the worst concert related disaster in the United States since the February 2003 blaze at the Station nightclub in Warwick, Rhode Island. That blaze erupted when pyrotechnics ignited flammable foam inside the club during a concert by the band Great White. In all, 100 people were killed and more than 200 were injured.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf reportedly told families gathered at a nearby support center late Saturday night that all 14 known residents living in the building had escaped the flames.

While the cause of the Oakland fire had yet to be determined, and may not be determined for some time, it did erupt during the West Coast tour for the record label 100 Percent Silk.

It featured several DJs including two among the missing – Cherushii who is also known as Chelsea Faith and Oakland-based Nacht also known as Johnny Igaz.

At the fire scene, workers were forced to cut several new entryways into the building to allow searchers across to the artist collective that consisted of a maze of small work spaces on the first floor.

A makeshift stairway that one survivor likened to a plank served as access to the second floor where the concert/party was going on.

Survivors said what made it more difficult to escape was the cluttered interior of the building. The walls were covered with wood pieces of art and online photos of the cooperative display old furnishings scattered all about.

Laura Hobbs attended the party with friends and told of the panic and difficulties of those attempting to escape the deadly flames.

“The building itself was an art piece,” she said. “The walls were completely covered with makeshift pieces of wood, so finding the staircase if you’d never been there before was difficult because they had built it into the wall in a certain way.”

Schaaf and city building officials said the building had been licensed as a warehouse and not for residences or as a concert venue.

Darin Ranelletti, of the City of Oakland Planning Department, said the city had received reports of people living illegally in the building.

Officials had opened an investigation on Nov. 13. An investigator went to the premises on Nov. 17 but could not gain access to the inside of the building.

“We know last designated use for this building was a warehouse,” he said. “We received complaints about blight and unapproved construction … There was an inspection of the property and we were able to confirm blight we’re still investigating allegations of unapproved construction.”

The building was reportedly owned by Chor N. Ng of Oakland. Property records show he bought the warehouse in 1997.

Ng has not commented since the fire and may soon be the subject of a criminal investigation.

Mayor Libby Schaaf sais during Sunday’s 3 p.m. news conference that district attorney Nancy O’Malley activated the criminal investigation team, but noted that it was far too early to speculate as to the cause of the fire.

Officials also want to talk with Derick Ion, who heads up the artist collective.

Meanwhile, family and friends maintained an emotional vigil until late Sunday night at family support center.

They were awaiting a word, any word, of those who were believed to be missing. When it became apparent no further word of the fate of their loved ones would be coming they left the facility late Saturday night.

Condolences have cascaded down upon the victims from around the country, state and Bay Area.

Former Oakland Mayor and current California Governor Jerry Brown said he and his wife “were saddened to learn of last night’s tragic fire in Oakland. Our thoughts are with the entire city in this difficult time, and we extend our condolences to the family and friends of those lost.”

Oakland’s professional sports teams all joined in with relief efforts.

The Golden State Warriors had a moment of silence for the victims before their Saturday night game against the Phoenix Suns.

“It’s hard to comprehend, but as an organization we just want to send our thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families, friends, people who were injured,” said head coach Steve Kerr at a pregame news conference.

“I don’t know if it means a whole lot, but — I should say, I know I can’t cure the pain, but we’re thinking of you. The whole organization. The team. Everybody here at Oracle tonight,” he added. “When we have a moment of silence, we’re all with you out there. We’re all devastated today.”

The six victims that had been identified Sunday are:

Cash Askew, 22, David Cline, 35, Travis Hough, 35, Donna Kellogg, 32, all from Oakland, as well as Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, from Coronado, California, Sara Hoda, 30, from Walnut Creek, and Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, from Hayward.


Comments (94)
  1. If illegals had taken up residence there, then we know why no prior investigations or action was taken regarding the disposition or use of the property.

  2. Very sad. Kids being kids. I know what they was doing was illegal but still. Many would have went on to live very productive lives. I am sure many who was there was not doing drugs as well. Tragic and my heart goes out to the family and friends of these young men and women

    1. Good thing we live in a law and order country again starting 1/20/17

      1. Only a very ill person, would go political here, maybe you can get help as our 50 community members are being laid to rest and their loved ones morn. At least you still have a chance ,unlike victims!

  3. Does Chief Melinda wear her spotlessly clean fire helmet and goggles to bed also?

    She wears it everywhere else. Does anyone actually believe that she ever worked as an actual firefighter carrying men out of windows, axing down doors, etc? What a joke our “society” has become.

    1. Yep, a lot of female token ‘chiefs’ who’ve never left their desks.

    2. Oakland Fire Chief, Teresa Deloach-Reed, say no more!

  4. John Beball says:

    The Fire Chief needs to lose his/her job….they are ultimately responsible for fire code violations.

    1. Will Scott says:

      Just as much as 100% Silk, the renters of the building and the owner of the building as well.

      1. California is a sewer of illegals taking handouts, criminals running wild, a brainless and feckless “government.” I wish you girls really would secede! Save us all a lot of money and time wasted on barely human beings who call themselves LIBERALS.

    2. That ‘fire chief’ looks like an affirmative-action placement who’s never dragged anybody out of a fire and probably isn’t capable of doing so. Typical democRat posturing for political correctness instead of performance or ability.

  5. Joe Campbell says:

    What ever happened to the city fire marshals that enforce building codes so that horrible incidents like this never happen.

  6. Perfect example of why we have building codes, usage and capacity regulations.

  7. Totally, Totally preventable. A special investigator needs to be commissioned. Not from California which allows “criminal” activities to occur all over the place. Kamela Brown would be the first to cover up an investigation. Sickened. The families should be shouting once the grief stage ends.

  8. Look out for your safety. You may be the only one doing so.

  9. Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton’s jacket and helmet look like they have NEVER gotten dirty!! or been to a real fire!!

  10. Oakland can thank liberals, affirmative action and PC BS run amuck for this trajedy.

    The 2 fire chiefs are seen wearing jackets that have never been dirty a day of their lives…..maybe she just got it back from the dry cleaners!! ha ha ha

  11. Tom Rohrer says:

    Democratic city government! Democrat bureaucracy! Democratically appointed building inspectors I presume??

  12. David Gouge says:

    This could have been some sort of weird mass suicide pact resulting from Trump’s election as POTUS.

    1. If you are right, I hope that it is a trend that catches on across the nation.

      1. Chris Bee says:

        Claire, I agree…cleans up the gene pool of America haters!! Also, the pictures of this place looks like it was very evil in it’s decor so it’s a good thing it burned down in my opinion.

  13. timefortrump says:

    Kalifornia is sympathetic to squatters and hostile to property owners. There are codes which are enforced for a reason. Turning a blind eye to code violations is asking for this kind of tragedy and many other tragedies which can befall the area around the squatter building. God forbid you want to buy or sell raw milk in Kalifornia and the weight of the law will come down on your head – but create a firetrap illegally and they pretend they don’t see it. The code people who let this continue have blood on their hands

  14. David Smith says:

    Just being in Oakland is a health risk,,,

  15. My sincere condolences to all of the families and friends affected by this tragedy. I feel that the owner of the building knew of these kinds of activities and turned a blind eye. He should be held criminally accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The fact that there are so many buildings in Oakland like this, I am sure that here aren’t enough inspectors available to respond to all complaints quickly
    There is plenty of blame to go around, but it starts with the owner of the building and the tenant who promoted this event!

  16. I smell a rat! The way it’s been covered, the press conferences, how quickly the media has backed off. There is WAY more here than just the fire.

  17. arthur4563 says:

    This is California, where they worry about things that may or may not happen – 100 years from now, which their actions cannot possibly have any influence over. Too many Jerry Browns running around saving non-existent victims from non-existent disasters.


    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

    1. I’m not sure where this is coming from or why you’ve posted this comment on this particular article (although the pictures of the denizens of San Francisco are disturbing, to say the least), I do agree with you: Diversity doesn’t work. The only way for other races to be self-determining and happy is for them to return to their country of origin and to quit blaming whites for all of their problems.

  19. Aethera Aqua says:

    What happens if Oakland inspectors are to crack down on all places like this? Then Oakland will change and lose a lot of its creativity and artistic spaces, something I’m sure the people who perished would not have wanted.
    On the other hand, when it results in mass loss of life, its a grave issue so maybe a strong response is justified.
    Right now there’s just too much pain and people are going through mourning. Hopefully commenters and media will respect that. Later on people can debate about ensuring the safety of creative collective living spaces and where the responsibility falls.
    No doubt this will already have woken up a lot of people in other spaces to think about the conditions and hazards…
    Prayers go out to everyone touched by this tragedy.

  20. Greg Meshes says:

    They had complaints about the building, but could not gain access, uh huh, I swear chief we drove by and the lights were off. How many leaflets were posted all over about this event, and no one saw anything? Looking at the interior, it was a death trap. The parents should be able to sue the fire department for dereliction of duty. Then the post by the guy who ran the place on how his family is safe but ‘he’ lost everything. Great White tragedy and this one could have easily been avoided. Such a great loss of life.

  21. Gal Murphy says:

    Sanctuary city did NOTHING to ensure this building had the proper fire codes in place and they should be jailed for manslaughter. They allowed this building to operate…… just try to run a business without the town breathing down your necks for all kinds of rules and regulations and they expect us to believe it operated without the police and firepersons knowing this was a firetrap! Sorry, don’t believe it ….who was being paid off?

  22. Vitus Cognac says:

    Quite unfortunate. Did you guys see the pictures of the building before it was burned down? It was a haphazard assortment off mannequins, wooden pallets, wooden platforms, carpets, wooden frames, and wooden railings. An absolute disaster waiting to happen. Everything was cluttered, disorganized, and flammable. Nothing about the structure would have met a building inspection. There was no reasonable escape route and no fire sprinklers. A typical hippy/commie/liberal “artist” dwelling. I’d imagine the fire was started by a snagged cord for the DJ setup or a half-wit dropping his joint somewhere.

  23. David Lagle says:

    Looking at the space, It reminds me so much of the places I used to hang out so many years ago. Young struggling artist do not have the resources to work/ live/entertain in a “legitimate” space. The sad fact is, if the owners, did sink hundreds of thousand dollars in getting the place up to code, the first thing they would do is kick the artists out. I am no way exusing the owners, Just commenting on the life of a young artist/ struggling youth. My heart goes out to the families. And so sad for their loss. The world will be a little greyer without them.

  24. sticknca says:

    “Chief Reed has received many awards during her professional career, including the NAACP Henry Gage Senior “Excellence in Leadership” Award, the IABPFF Black Chief Officers Committee “Metro Lifetime Achievement” Award and the Martin Luther King Association’s “Public Safety and Service” Award”

    1. She has AWARDS????? Awards????? And you don’t care about all the children killed? Just her phony fake DemocRat party propaganda AWARDS?????? You’re not even human.

      1. Let me guess, a fire chief hired based on gender or race? Kinda like Obama,
        who won the Nobel Peace Prize for doing NOTHING? As a taxpayer (well I’m assuming you pay taxes) doesn’t it drive you batty that people working in public safety are not hired based on merit? Your life, or the lives of loved ones depend on it.

  25. The crime scene is not the warehouse, it is Oakland City Hall. I am a CA licensed architect and structural engineer. I received my Masters from nearby Cal, Berkeley in the mid-70s. The Building Official’s, Planning Director’s and fire Marshall’s duties are to condemn and shut down this sort of illegal occupancy. This tragedy cannot go unpunished and I hope the families will at least seek a huge lawsuit and the Alameda County D.A. pursues a criminal case for at least negligent homicide (less than manslaughter) and these officials go to jail.

  26. Given the fact that Oakland is in Kalifornia, a Democrat controlled city, a sanctuary city and PC in it’s hiring practices, I’d be willing to bet that the building that burned had been used as an ‘artist studio, crash pad and music venue for years and the city looked the other way. Notice no one even attempted to inspect the building until numerous complaints had been received and still nothing was done.Being an ‘artist colony’ and such it probably got a pass from the Liberals at city hall who sympathize with that sort of thing.

    If my kid had died in there I’d sue the city for negligence, followed by the guy who rented the place, the record company and the building’s owner. That death trap should never have been allowed to exist.

  27. Another tragedy, young people killed, all at the hands of Jerry Brown, the mayor of San Fran and other “sanctuary” city criminals. Jail them all!

  28. John Mazza says:

    Any day that a bunch of hippies break the law and manage to barbecue themselves is a good day in my book.

    1. All that hair and garbage…basically, clumsy people, something’s gonna catch fire

  29. Tragic no matter how you slice it, even if it’s not an act of terrorism there are several politicians and Oakland City employees with blood on their hands. Omission to act can be criminal too…just ask Raymond Zack. Oh wait, you can’t. He’s dead.

  30. A shrine to the hindu goddess of destruction SHIVA inside of the building. One eye symbolism. A statue of the owl of molech, ceramic statues of demonic entities all within and without the rave building.

  31. Kevin Griggs says:

    So no cops or building official ever noticed that they were having parties there every weekend until the place caught fire?

  32. if you Are in the Oakland area and would like to support the victims you may attend our local community event at 1408 Webster st in Oakland CA this thursday December 8th
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