Massive fire broke out late Friday at Oakland party, killing at least nine people, police said
OAKLAND — In what may be the deadliest structure fire in Oakland’s history, at least nine people died in a blaze that broke out late Friday at an electronic music party at a Fruitvale district live-work space, officials said.
The fire tore through the two-story building in the 1300 block of 31st Avenue at about 11:30 p.m. Friday during an event featuring musician Golden Donna’s 100% Silk West Coast tour.
Most of the nine dead were found on the second floor, and another 25 people are unaccounted for, Fire Chief Teresa Deloach-Reed said.
Firefighters said it appeared that no smoke detectors were activated during the fire and there was no sprinkler system in the structure, the chief said.
“We still have to do a more thorough search of the building and we don’t know the potential number of other victims,” Deloach-Reed said. No firefighters were reported injured while battling the blaze.
The blaze is already being called one of the deadliest single-structure fires in Oakland’s history, if not the deadliest.
“This is a true loss for the city, for the firefighters who responded, and the people who lost family and friend. It’s just tragic, a real tragedy,” she said.
Friends and family of party-goers were on social media early Saturday looking for confirmation their loved ones are safe. Some are posting and getting information from party’s Facebook event page.
Some have posted images and messages on Facebook of people they believe are missing, while other have posted that they had escaped safely.
The building houses some 50 people and is an artists collective. One, a photographer and artist, said a friend hurt himself and asked for help getting out. Bob Mule said he tried, but was thwarted by the intense fire.
“It was too hot, too much smoke, I had to get out of there,” said Mule, a photographer and artist who lives at the building and suffered minor burns. “I literally felt my skin peeling and my lungs being suffocated by smoke. I couldn’t get the fire extinguisher to work.”
When he escaped, he could see someone calling for help from second floor window, and tried to get a ladder, ” but they jumped out the window.
At a nearby office, more than a dozen survivors and friends gathered to await news of those missing. Ray Wan said he wasn’t at the event, but was called around midnight about the fire and showed up to check on three friends, two women and a man, who were DJs at what he described as an underground club party. Wan said the were playing house music at the art collective, which throws the events to raise money for rent.
The blaze brought 55 firefighters to the scene, near the corner of 31st Avenue and International Boulevard. Battalion chief Lisa Baker said crews found flames on three sides of the building. Firefighters aggressively attacked the blaze inside the structure when conditions changed and they had to go back outside.
It took an estimated four hours to bring the blaze under control. International Boulevard was closed between Derby and Fruitvale avenues.
When crews first entered to fight the fire, they were impeded by clutter, mostly furniture and art. “It filled end to end with furniture, whatnot, collections,” Deloach-Reed said. “It was like a maze almost.”
Crews found a “makeshift stairwell’ between the first and second floor, she said.
Fire officials were waiting for a structural engineer to arrive on scene before they entered the building to do a more thorough search. The building had no sprinklers, Deloach-Reed said, and crews did not hear any smoke detectors going off when they arrived.
Arson investigators will be called to the scene, the chief said.
Oakland police said those who were concerned about missing people in the fire should contact the Alameda County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau 510-382-3000.
Check back for updates.