SAN FRANCISCO: At least nine people were killed and 25 unaccounted for following a massive fire at a rave party in Oakland, California, fire officials said.
Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said most of those who died were found on the second floor of the two-story warehouse building, apparently being used as an artists’ studio, near San Francisco. “It must have been a very fast-moving fire,” she told reporters.
It was not immediately known what sparked the blaze at the electronic dance music party featuring the group Golden Donna and other acts.
The fire broke out around 11:30 pm (0730 GMT) and was brought under control by early morning, with crews sifting through the rubble searching for victims, fire officials said.
“We still have to do a more thorough search of the building and we don’t know the potential number of other victims,” Reed said.
There was no clear entry or exit path in the warehouse building, she told reporters. It was unclear if people were living there.
“I don’t know where the fire started, but I do know that the way the building was situated made it difficult for people to escape,” Reed said.
Reed said firefighters were hampered in their efforts to put out the blaze by clutter.
“It filled end to end with furniture, whatnot, collections,” she said. “It was like a maze almost.”
She added that it appeared no smoke detectors were activated in the building which also had no sprinkler system.
The fire raged through the building so quickly and got out of control at one point, forcing firefighters to pull back, reports said.
Friends and family of partygoers went to social media to try and find news about their loved ones, with some posting information on the event’s Facebook page.
The local KTVU station said about 50 people were inside the building when the blaze started.
“I literally felt my skin peeling and my lungs being suffocated by smoke,” Bob Mule, a photographer who lives in the building, told KTVU. “I couldn’t get the fire extinguisher to work.”
News footage showed orange flames shooting into the sky and flaring out of the large windows of the building.
The fire was described as one of the deadliest in the history of Oakland.
The deadliest nightclub fire in the United States in recent decades was in 2003 when pyrotechnic effects by the rock band Great White set off an inferno at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island, killing about 100 people.