An Oakland warehouse where at least 33 people were killed in a fire was likely being used as an illegal living space, according to officials. Investigators have searched through about 40 percent of the building.
A California warehouse where at least 33, and reportedly as many as 40, partygoers were killed when it went up in flames may have been illegally used as a living space, authorities said Sunday.
The building known as the "Ghost Ship" in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, was zoned as a storage facility and housed working spaces for artists and artisans before it was torn apart by a blaze following a concert and dance party attended by up to a hundred people on Friday night.
According to media reports, neighbors had lodged numerous complaints about the structure, which they say was crammed to breaking point with pianos, artworks and furniture.
"It was just a labyrinth of little areas," Deputy Fire Chief Mark Hoffmann told the press. He added that a mezzanine level had been added without permission, and that it was only accessible by a ramshackle stairwell constructed out of wooden pallets.
'A concrete kiln'
The fire broke out late Friday night when the space was being used for a dance party and concert by the electronic artist Golden Donna, according to a Facebook post.
City officials have said there was no concert permit issued for the location.
One eyewitness told news agency Reuters that he arrived late to the party to find smoke billowing from the two-story building, moments before firefighters arrived.
"We tore down a fence so people could get out, but nobody came out," Ben Koss said. "It was like a concrete kiln."
Because of the clutter inside the warehouse, authorities said there was no clear exit for those inside once the fire began. "It appears that either you got out or you got trapped inside," said Alameda County Sheriff's Sergeant Ray Kelly.
Officials have said there were no sprinklers in the building, though they added that they considered arson unlikely.
es,jm/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)