The death toll from a Friday night fire at a converted warehouse in Oakland has risen to 33, city officials said this afternoon.
Of those 33 victims, only three have been positively identified by family members, according to the Alameda County sheriff’s office.
The identities of those victims have not been released.
Sheriff’s officials are asking anyone hoping to identify a victim to save the victim’s DNA from items like a used hairbrush or toothbrush. The items should be secured in a paper bag to preserve their DNA.
The Family Assistance Center set up at 2425 East 12th St. remains open and is offering resources and counseling to the family and friends of the victims.
Fire crews are continuing to search through the burned building, removing debris by hand using buckets. So far about 20 percent of the building has been searched, according to city officials.
Firefighters had remained at the scene throughout the night.
Fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton, a 19-year veteran with the department, said earlier Sunday morning:
“This is the most deadly fire in Oakland’s history. … It’s tragic to watch so many people perish in a fire.”
Drayton anticipated crews would remain at the scene for the next few days cleaning debris and recovering the victims.
Alameda County Sgt. Ray Kelly said of the recovery process, which involved identifying the victims:
“This is very hard work and it’s very slow.”
Sheriff’s officials have spoken to most of the family members of the victims, according to Kelly.
The fire broke out just after 11:30 p.m. at 1305 31st Ave., a warehouse known as the Ghost Ship that was being used by an artist collective, during a party advertised on Facebook as the “Golden Donna 100% Silk 2016 West Coast Tour.”
The warehouse had apparently been the subject of some recent complaints. The building was last permitted for use as a warehouse, according to Oakland city administrator Sabrina Landreth.
A notice of violation was given on Nov. 13 regarding “a ton of garbage piling up on the property” with “the main building remodel (sic) for residential,” according to city records.
A city inspector who visited the building on Nov. 17 verified the complaint, but could not get inside to confirm the interior construction, according to Landreth’s office.
Oakland director of planning and building Darin Ranelletti said Saturday the building was not legally permitted for any use other than as a warehouse, adding that Friday’s party was not permitted by the city, he said.