The death toll from a disastrous warehouse fire in Oakland, Calif., stands at 36 after authorities have ended recovery efforts, officials say.
Firefighters and investigators have been searching the site for days, since the artists’ collective known as the “Ghost Ship” burned down late Friday night, during a dance party. They briefly halted efforts when a wall was discovered to be leaning, calling in structural engineers to ensure the safety of recovery workers.
The end of recovery efforts comes as Oakland officials are working to declare a local state of emergency, beginning the process for state and federal aid, The Associated Press reports.
The building “had been converted to artists’ studios and illegal living spaces, and former denizens said it was a death trap of piled wood, furniture, snaking electrical cords and only two exits,” the AP says.
The wire service has more on the status of investigations:
“A refrigerator was a potential source of the fire, but it was too soon to say for sure, said Jill Snyder, special agent in charge of the San Francisco office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
” ‘We have no indication that this was intentionally set,’ she said. …
“City and state officials fielded years of complaints about dangerous conditions, drugs, neglected children, trash, thefts and squabbles at the warehouse, raising questions about why it wasn’t shut down. The district attorney warned of possible murder charges as she determines whether there were any crimes linked to the blaze.
“A building inspector who went to an Oakland warehouse on Nov. 17 after receiving a complaint of illegal interior construction left after being unable to get inside.
“Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said late Tuesday the inspector followed procedure and later sent a request to the owner to gain entry. She did not reveal the outcome of that request.”
Of the 36 victims, 26 have been publicly identified. Another victim was 17 and has been identified, but not publicly named.
Several of the victims of the fire were trans, and their friends and families have reported to police that they were originally misidentified by authorities, who released their birth names. Oakland officials now say they are working with the LGBT community to correct the errors, member station KQED reports.
KQED dedicated an episode of “Forum” to remembering the victims of the fire: You can listen to it here.