Oakland, CA -- A fire killed at least 33 people when it engulfed an illegal residence that was permitted only as a warehouse.
An eyewitness who lived in the building, Carmen Brito, said, "I'm pretty sure I was the first person to see the fire, and when I saw it, it was bigger than I was." There was a raging concert going on in the main level while residents were screaming and running for their lives upstairs.
The fire ignited on Friday, and on Sunday, firefighters were still digging through the wreckage. The floors collapsed and the fire raged through the wooden structure with timber beams, wooden statues, and broken instruments randomly located throughout the space.
The building had only two exits. At this point, thirty-three people have already been confirmed dead. With the state of the building, there is concern the death toll will climb considerably. So far, seven families have been notified of the loss of a loved one.
While not much is known yet of the victims, one was the son of a local law enforcement officer. Other victims were from Europe and Asia, so officials are contacting agencies abroad to contact their families.
There were approximately 25 artists that lived in the warehouse illegally. It was dubbed an "artist community." However, it was nearly uninhabitable and called the "Ghost Ship." There were many code violations, it was only permitted as a warehouse, and the tenant/owners were harassing the tenants. The electricity was spotty, there was no heat, and if a tenant crossed the landlord, he would bring in homeless people to harass the tenants. In addition, he would bring in friends with guns to intimidate residents.
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