Oakland’s problem of Sex Workers extends to front of Catholic grade school but these girls are young, very young

Romans 1:28 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

Important Takeaways:

  • Video showing alleged sex workers soliciting outside East Oakland school sparks call for action
  • Video showing women who appear to be sex workers soliciting right outside a Catholic grade school in East Oakland is raising concerns about human trafficking in the area.
  • Parents and city officials tell the I-Team young women, some police believe may be trafficked, are walking outside St. Anthony’s K-8 grade school off E. 15th Street in Oakland at all hours of the day.
  • One witness says “We’ve seen up to 20 women walking up and down this street,” Gallo said. “Young, young girls.” “I’ve seen some as young as 15, 16 years old,” Gallo said.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Trump to send federal forces to more ‘Democrat’ cities

By Steve Holland and Lisa Lambert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Monday said he would send law enforcement to more U.S. cities, as a federal crackdown on anti-racism protests in Oregon with unmarked cars and unidentified forces angered people across the country.

Trump, a Republican, cited New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland, California, as places to send federal agents, noting the cities’ mayors were “liberal Democrats.” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot frequently blasts Trump on Twitter.

“We’re sending law enforcement,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We can’t let this happen to the cities.”

State and local leaders in Oregon, as well as members of Congress, have called for Trump to remove Department of Homeland Security secret police forces from Portland, Oregon, after videos showed unidentified federal personnel rounding up people and whisking them away in black minivans.

“Not only do I believe he is breaking the law, but he is also endangering the lives of Portlanders,” the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, tweeted, having previously called the federal presence “political theater” in an election year.

Trump, trailing in opinion polls behind Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, in June declared himself “president of law and order” and threatened to send the U.S. military into cities after sometimes violent protests and looting in the aftermath of African American ‘s death in police custody in Minneapolis.

Federal agents last week began cracking down on Portland protests against police brutality and systemic racism, using tear gas to defend federal buildings and taking some activists into custody without explanation.

“They grab a lot of people and jail the leaders. These are anarchists,” Trump said of federal agents sent to the historically liberal city to quell often unruly protests.

Despite a national outcry over the tactics, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials on Monday said they would not back down and would not apologize.

The state of Oregon and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the Trump administration for unlawfully detaining Oregon residents, and some Republicans spoke out against its tactics on Monday.

“There is no place for federal troops or unidentified federal agents rounding people up at will,” tweeted U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Homeland Security was making plans to deploy around 150 agents in the city this week where police defending a statue clashed with protesters on Friday.

The DHS did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert in Washington, additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Deborah Bloom in Portland; Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Two arrested in deadly Oakland, California, warehouse dance fire

FILE PHOTO: Firefighters work inside the burned warehouse following the fatal fire in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, U.S. on December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – Two men were charged with involuntary manslaughter on Monday for creating what prosecutors described as a “fire trap” at Oakland, California, warehouse where 36 people died in a blaze at an illegal dance party last year.

Derrick Ion Almena, 47, and Max Harris, were taken into custody elsewhere in the state earlier on Monday and face up to 39 years in prison if convicted, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said at a press conference.

Almena rented the warehouse, which was known as the Ghost Ship, and ran it as an art collective and communal residence. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Harris was a creative director of the art space.

“Defendants Almena and Harris knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape, then filled that area with human beings,” O’Malley said. “And they are now facing the consequences of their actions.”

The 10,000-square-foot building lacked sprinklers and smoke detectors, and wooden pallets partially formed a makeshift stairway between the first and second floors, officials have said. It had just two exterior doors.

On Dec. 2, flames raced through what authorities say was an illegal, rave-style dance party on the second floor of the sprawling two-story building, which had a warehouse permit but was leased to the artists’ collective.

It was the deadliest fire in the United States since 100 people perished in a 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire.

Reuters has reported that in the two years leading up to the fire, city officials entered the building on numerous occasions and had multiple opportunities to see that residents were illegally living there in hazardous conditions.

The Oakland Police Department received dozens of complaints about the warehouse and went inside at least half a dozen times, according to police reports and accounts from former tenants and visitors.

O’Malley said Almena and Harris were criminally negligent because they had allowed people to live in the warehouse unbeknownst to the city, fire department and owners, permitting illegal construction and floor-to-ceiling storage that proved highly flammable.

On the night of the dance party, she said, the men blocked one exit to the building as party-goers gathered there and provided no lighted exit pathways to the remaining outside door.

“The paying guests to this event faced a nearly impossible labyrinth to get out of the building,” O’Malley said.

Authorities say that because nearly all of the evidence was destroyed by the flames, the precise cause of the fire may never be determined.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

U.S. cities move to curb lead poisoning following Reuters report

Environmental Protection Agency signs that read "DO NOT play in the dirt or around the mulch" are seen at the West Calumet Complex in East Chicago, Indiana, U.S.

By Joshua Schneyer and M.B. Pell

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Cities and towns across the United States are taking action after a Reuters report identified thousands of communities where children tested with lead poisoning at higher rates than in Flint, Michigan.

From California to Pennsylvania, local leaders, health officials and researchers are advancing measures to protect children from the toxic threat. They include more blood-lead screening, property inspections, hazard abatement and community outreach programs.

The University of Notre Dame is offering a graduate course to study and combat local poisoning problems the report helped bring to light.

“This has just laid out that it’s not just a Detroit issue, it’s not just a Baltimore issue,” said Ruth Ann Norton, president of Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, a Baltimore-based nonprofit. “This started conversations with mayors and governors.”

In an investigation last month, the news agency used census tract and zip code-level data from millions of childhood blood tests to identify nearly 3,000 U.S. communities with recently recorded lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint. More than 1,100 of these neighborhoods had a rate of elevated blood tests at least four times higher than in Flint.

A Reuters interactive map, built with previously unpublished data, allowed users to track local poisoning rates across much of the country for the first time. In many areas, residents and officials weren’t previously aware of the scope of local children’s exposure. The poisoning hazards include deteriorating lead paint, tainted soil and contaminated water.

To read the December investigation and use the map, click here:  http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-lead-testing/

Flint’s lead poisoning is no aberration, Reuters found, but one example of a preventable health crisis that continues in hazardous spots in much of the country.

Lead poisoning stunts children’s cognitive development, and no level of exposure is considered safe. Though abatement efforts have made remarkable progress in curbing exposure since the 1970s, children remain at risk in thousands of neighborhoods.

In South Bend, Indiana, for instance, the data showed several hotspots. In one tract, 31.3 percent of small children tested since 2005 had blood lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s current threshold for elevated levels in children under age 6. Children at or above this threshold warrant a public health response, the CDC says.

Across Flint, 5 percent of children tested had high levels during the peak of the city’s water contamination crisis.

After Reuters published its findings, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg held a press conference with county health officials to address local poisoning. Several actions followed:

– County health officials have begun a surveillance effort to track childhood blood-lead testing, encouraging more screening.

– Officials plan to press for an Environmental Protection Agency grant to boost environmental testing and lead abatement.

– Notre Dame is offering a semester-long graduate level class for students to research the local poisoning problem and assist health officials. A summer research program, “Get the Lead Out,” will send students into homes to measure lead in paint, dust, soil and water and inform families about risks. These programs will help pay for hundreds more childhood blood lead tests, after testing stalled due to funding shortfalls.

“Everything has moved into fast-forward pace here since your story,” said Heidi Beidinger-Burnett, a county health board member and professor at Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health. “We are acting with a sense of urgency because kids here depend on it.”

Other officials in Indiana are exploring additional measures to protect children. State Senator Jean Breaux introduced a bill this week to compel the state health department to double blood lead screening rates among Indiana children enrolled in Medicaid. The screenings are required for Medicaid-enrolled children, but major testing gaps remain.


In Oakland, California, 7.57 percent of children tested in the Fruitvale neighborhood had high lead levels, a result largely of old lead paint or tainted soil.

Two Oakland council members introduced a city resolution Jan. 12 that, if approved, will require property owners to obtain lead inspections and safety certifications before renting or selling housing built before 1978, when lead paint was banned. Oakland would also provide families in older homes with lead safety materials, and urge more blood screening.

“We need to address that issue, that’s the bottom line,” said councilman Noel Gallo, who grew up in Fruitvale.

Larry Brooks, director of Alameda County’s Healthy Homes Department, wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle editorial that “Oakland has thousands of lead-poisoned children.” Before the Reuters report, he added, “whispers about potential lead poisoning in Oakland were dismissed as an ‘East Coast phenomenon’ or a crisis contained to Flint.”

The Reuters analysis found high poisoning rates in spots across Texas, where the office of Austin City Council member Delia Garza said she may use the information to press for more aggressive lead abatement measures. City officials are urging the state health department to release more blood testing data.

Local data can detect clusters of poisoned children who remain hidden in the broader surveys states usually publish. The news agency obtained local data covering 21 states, and about 61 percent of the U.S. population, through public records requests.

In the Dallas area, clean air advocacy group Downwinders at Risk is holding an event to address lingering hazards, including shuttered lead smelters. The group cited Reuters’ work, which helped to identify Dallas areas with high poisoning rates.”Having five to six times the national average of high blood lead readings in a zip (code) just south of downtown certainly has been getting people’s attention,” said group director Jim Schermbeck.

In St. Joseph, Missouri, where testing data showed at least 120 small children have been poisoned within a 15-block radius since 2010, the city manager convened department heads to address the problem.

Pennsylvania had the most census tracts where at least 10 percent of children tested high for lead. In Warren, where the rate was as high as 36 percent, the city manager said she’s considering distributing home-testing kits to families. County officials will meet to consider several additional measures, including boosting blood screening and increasing funding for prevention. County Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said he wasn’t aware of the full scope of poisoning in Warren until the Reuters report. It hit close to home. A few years ago, Eggleston said, his infant son was poisoned by lead.

(Reporting by Joshua Schneyer and M.B. Pell. Editing by Ronnie Greene)

Oakland city workers visited warehouse, did not flag fire hazard

A firefighter watches from the roof at the scene of the fatal warehouse fire in Oakland, California, U.S.

By Heather Somerville, Kristina Cooke and Dan Levine

(Reuters) – In the two years leading up to the fire at an Oakland, California warehouse that killed 36 people at a dance party late last week, city officials had entered the building on numerous occasions and had multiple opportunities to see that residents were illegally living there in hazardous conditions.

The Oakland Police Department received dozens of complaints about the warehouse, and went inside at least half a dozen times, according to police reports and accounts from former tenants and visitors.

Neighbors and former tenants also say city fire officials were in the building at least twice.

Those who spent time in the artists’ cooperative known as the “Ghost Ship,” say that potential code violations would have been apparent to anyone entering the building, which was not permitted for residence.

Living quarters with narrow, winding halls were built from scrap materials, including highly flammable wooden pallets. Nails were exposed, plumbing improvised and a makeshift stairway to the second floor was extremely hazardous, they say.

“If you opened the door and stepped even three feet inside it would be grossly apparent to anyone that it wasn’t just being used as a warehouse or a workspace,” said former Ghost Ship neighbor Ben Acevedo, 45, who estimates he made about 60 calls to police about the property over 16 months to report noise, blight and illegal occupancy.

On Wednesday, amid questions about why the city did not act to shut down the warehouse, an Oakland official said that code enforcement personnel had not entered the building in 30 years.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said she did not know the last time fire inspectors had gone inside. She did not mention police visits, but said the city would launch a new effort “to clarify the responsibility of city employees to properly report any observations of dangerous living conditions or illegal events.”


The Ghost Ship collective was founded by Derick Ion Almena, who leased the warehouse and lived in it with his wife and three children, as well as artists to whom he rented space.

Fights, raucous parties and complaints about thefts drew police to the scene numerous times during the collective’s tenancy. Almena did not responded to several requests for comment.

In January 2015, officers responding to reports of a fight went inside the warehouse, attempted to locate “a stolen cellphone,” and “canvassed the area and the building for the suspect,” according to a police report. Court records show that two children were present.

A person who was there at the time, but declined to be named for fear of retribution, said the officers’ search took them into parts of the building where people were clearly residing, including the bathroom and shower area as well as the kitchen, which was full of food and dishes.

The previous year, tenants Adriana Sparkuhl and her boyfriend reported a robbery at the warehouse to police, records show. Sparkuhl, now 31, says the report stemmed from a dispute with Almena when she and her boyfriend moved out.

Sparkuhl said she also told the officers that people, including Almena’s three children, were living in the warehouse illegally and that the police said they would pay the Ghost Ship a visit. She does not know whether they did.

In July 2014, about a month after Sparkuhl filed her report, police entered the foyer of the warehouse while investigating a homicide at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant across the street, according to a resident at the time.

From where they stood, the officers would have seen the kitchen area and at least one RV, said then-resident Brad Evans, 21. Police asked Almena’s three children whether they lived there, Evans recalled, and the children responded that they did.

Former resident Shelley Mack, 58, said she called police to escort her from the building when she moved out in February 2015.

“They saw everything,” Mack said, adding that she told them about the illegal residents. “I told them everything they needed to know. They didn’t have to guess.”


Oakland police have not responded to Reuters’ request for the call log of service requests to the Ghost Ship. City officials have not yet released fire inspection reports also requested by Reuters, citing a delay due to a criminal investigation of the fire by the district attorney’s office.

Barry Donelan, the president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association said it was “ludicrous” to expect rank-and-file police officers to report building code violations.

“Are you familiar with the crime in Oakland? These guys are going from call to call and now we are responsible for code enforcement too?” he asked.

NBC Bay Area reported citing sources that there was no record of a fire inspection at the Ghost Ship over the last decade.

At least one resident and also a neighbor, however, recalled visits by fire officials to the warehouse.

Ghost Ship resident Libby Physh said a fire official visited the building twice when she lived there during the summer and fall of 2014. She said the fire official saw “how much building was going on” inside the warehouse and wanted to ensure there were clearly marked exits. Otherwise, Physh said, he “did not say anything negative” about the space.

Danielle Boudreaux, a neighbor and one-time friend of Almena and his wife, said that Almena told her around January 2015 that a fire official had recently visited the warehouse and “was breathing down” his neck.

“If you get all these complaints for the same address you’d think they’d take it more seriously, would make it a priority,” said Acevedo, the former neighbor.

(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner; editing by Sue Horton, G Crosse)

U.S. cities enlist public’s help in wake of deadly Oakland fire

Two children place flowers at a makeshift memorial near the scene of the fatal warehouse fire in Oakland, California

By Rory Carroll and Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – In the days since a warehouse fire in Oakland, California, killed at least 36 people attending a party, cities across the United States have vowed to find ways to prevent such tragedies.

In Portland, Oregon, an elected leader wants to require sprinklers before a building can host a special event. In Los Angeles, a councilmember is calling on citizens to report unsafe buildings.

In Baltimore, officials reacted swiftly on Monday to a citizen complaint about an art space called the Bell Foundry, condemning the building and ousting its tenants after finding violations that included a lack of permits, use of flammables and removal of ceiling beams, said Chief Roman Clark, a fire department spokesman.

The two-story California building where at least 36 people died lacked both sprinklers and smoke alarms. Oakland officials had issued multiple violation notices on the warehouse property over the past several years for trash, debris and rodents, according to city building department records. It was unclear if the city was aware of more serious violations such as just two exterior doors and wooden pallets partially forming a makeshift stairway.

A crane removes debris from the site of a fatal warehouse fire in Oakland, California, U.S.

A crane removes debris from the site of a fatal warehouse fire in Oakland, California, U.S. December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

New York stepped up its enforcement of building safety codes following the 1990 Happy Land fire, which killed 87 people in an unlicensed dance club, said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who represents Queens and chairs the council’s fire committee.

“We’re seeing what’s happening there and it’s unbelievable. We want to make sure it doesn’t happen here or anywhere,” she said. “We should take this as a lesson and do our best as a country to make sure all of our cities are abiding by fire and safety regulations,” she said.

In Los Angeles, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson on Tuesday asked the public to report potential problem residences. “Some people simply aren’t aware that they are living in a place that is as unsafe as it is,” he said.

Los Angeles, he said has many empty warehouses and abandoned buildings that are used for parties and concerts and by the homeless seeking shelter.

Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman said he wants more buildings to have sprinklers before holding gatherings. He also wants the public to tell the city about problems, as soaring rents have pushed people to live in unsafe conditions.

“We need to deputize the public as our inspectors too,” he said.

Arts organizations have also stepped up.

In Oakland, a group called Omni Commons will meet on Wednesday to see how they can help residents of makeshift spaces improve safety given an expected crackdown on building code violations, according to the group’s Facebook page.

A dance and circus art space called House of Yes in New York City will hold a fundraiser for Oakland victims, during which it will offer a fire-safety class.

In 2008, a non-fatal blaze destroyed the group’s former location, where 10 artists lived.

(Editing by Sue Horton and Lisa Shumaker)

Death toll rises to 36 from California warehouse inferno

Firefighters work inside the burned warehouse following the fatal fire in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California.

By Curtis Skinner and Peter Henderson

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – The death toll rose to 36 on Monday from a blaze that engulfed a converted warehouse during a dance party in Oakland, California, the greatest loss of life from a U.S. fire in over a decade, as searchers sifted charred ruins being treated as a crime scene.

Authorities said they were certain to find more bodies in the gutted building and were still trying to account for about 50 people reported missing by loved ones, while ruling out any drastic climb in the tally of deaths.

“If you have a best friend out there, please hug your best friend,” Franchesca Dickerson, a 21-year old hairdresser, told a candlelight vigil, as she held a collage of images of a friend who died in the blaze.

“I’d give 50,000 years to hug mine,” added Dickerson, who was to have joined her childhood friend, 19-year old Michalea Gregory, at the party, but changed plans because of work.

The cause of the fire, which erupted late on Friday in a sprawling two-story building leased to an artists’ collective, has yet to be determined.

Officials have said arson was not immediately suspected. But charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to murder could feature in a potential criminal case, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley told a news conference.

Possible safety violations were expected to be one aspect of the investigation, with city officials having said the site was already under investigation for reports of illegal construction.

Investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives identified an “area of interest” on the ground floor that was still out of reach, said Sergeant Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

He described the spot as being at the rear of the warehouse, where makeshift studios and cubicles were clustered.

O’Malley said fire investigators and a task force from her office were working with recovery teams inside the wreckage to preserve any potential criminal evidence as they seek signs of victims and clues to the origin of the blaze.

Debris was being removed “bucket by bucket,” said Deputy Fire Chief Darren White, but a large construction crane at the scene required nearby electricity lines to be shut down for several hours, as a precaution.


The nature of the fire has raised questions about possible building code violations. City officials have said the warehouse, known as the Ghost Ship, was already under scrutiny, with an inspector having visited on Nov. 17.

Municipal authorities also cited reports of people living in the structure, although it was barred to residential use. Some of those who entered the warehouse called it a potential fire trap.

The first floor, housing an artist cooperative, the Satya Yuga Collective, was a warren of partitioned studio spaces and rooms crammed with furniture, musical instruments and rugs, according to survivors, city officials and photographs posted on social media before the fire.

Two recreational vehicles believed to have been used as living quarters and work space were found parked on the ground floor inside, Kelly said.

The dance party was held on the second floor, which partially collapsed when the roof gave way. Survivors said flames spread quickly and billowing thick, black smoke blinded and choked those struggling to flee.

The 10,000-square-foot (929-sq-m) building lacked sprinklers or smoke detectors, and wooden pallets partially formed a makeshift stairway between first and second floors, officials said. It had just two exterior doorways.

Nancy Pike, 60, (L) and William Anderson, 3, put flowers at a sidewalk memorial near the burned warehouse following the fatal fire in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California

Nancy Pike, 60, (L) and William Anderson, 3, put flowers at a sidewalk memorial near the burned warehouse following the fatal fire in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, U.S. December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson


The recovery of three more bodies took the confirmed death count to 36, making the blaze the deadliest in the United States since 100 people perished in a 2003 nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island.

“We absolutely believe that the number of fire fatalities will increase,” Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton told reporters. But Sheriff Gregory Ahern later said he was “not anticipating any more huge numbers” of victims.

By Monday afternoon, 33 of the dead had been identified and authorities were notifying families, said Ahern, adding that three victims were from Finland, South Korea and Guatemala.

Most victims had been in their 20s and 30s, but some were younger, officials said. The site was known as a “safeplace” haven for young members of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Kelly said.

With many bodies burned beyond recognition, families were asked to preserve items that might contain DNA to help identification. Kelly said some people died of smoke inhalation.

Officials were unsure of the numbers present when the fire erupted. One survivor has estimated them at 60 to 70.

The warehouse was one of many converted lofts on the east end of San Francisco Bay in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, a mostly Latino district where rents are typically lower than elsewhere.

(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York, Timothy McLaughlin in Chicago, Deborah Todd in Oakland and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Writing by Daniel Wallis and Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney)

California fire death toll rises to 33 in grim search through warehouse

Firefighters finding victims of California fire

By Rory Carroll

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – A grim search for victims of a devastating fire that ripped through a converted warehouse in Oakland, California during a dance party entered a third day on Monday, with the list of 33 known deaths expected to grow.

The blaze, which erupted about 11:30 p.m. on Friday (0730 GMT on Saturday), ranks as the deadliest in the United States since 100 people perished in a 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire.

As criminal investigators joined recovery efforts at the charred ruin, just east of San Francisco, firefighters found the remains of nearly three dozen victims at the weekend as they searched the debris-filled shell of the two-story converted warehouse being used by an artists’ collective.

The cause of the fire was still undetermined, officials said. Arson is not suspected but investigators are checking whether the building, often used for music performances, had a history of code violations.

Mayor Libby Schaaf said the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office activated its criminal investigation team at the fire scene. A representative of the prosecutor’s office is monitoring the recovery process, she said, adding she was not authorized to say if a criminal probe was under way.

The mayor said the city’s first priority was finding the victims and supporting their families, adding, “We have delivered the unacceptable and horrific news of losing a loved one to seven of our families.”

The warehouse, which served as a base for the Ghost Ship Artists Collective, was one of many converted lofts in the city’s Fruitvale district, a mostly Latino area where rents are generally lower than in the rest of Oakland.

By Sunday evening, only 35 to 40 percent of the building had been searched, said Sergeant Ray Kelly, spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials are still unsure how many people were in the building at the time.

woman placing flowers at memorial

A woman places flowers at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a fire in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, U.S. December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam


Recovery teams had yet to search an unspecified number of mobile homes parked on the first floor, Kelly said, illustrating the scope of the task. He said people appeared to have been living in them.

The building was designated for use as a warehouse only, according to the city, which was aware of reports that people were living there, although no permits had been issued.

The recovery operation was delayed for hours as the roof collapsed and the second story fell onto the first in spots, making it unsafe to enter.

The effort has proceeded slowly due to mountains of debris, with victims apparently scattered throughout the unstable structure.

“We’re finding victims in every quadrant of the warehouse,” Kelly said. “We’re finding victims where we least expect them.”

Exhaustion and the wide scale of the disaster were taking an emotional toll on crews who had been working around the clock since the fire broke out.

With many victims burned beyond recognition, families were asked to preserve items that might contain their DNA to aid identification.

After notifying their families, the Alameda County coroner released the names of seven victims who had been positively identified:

– Cash Askew, 22, Oakland, Calif.

– David Clines, 35, Oakland, Calif.

– Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, Coronado, Calif.

– Sara Hoda, 30, Walnut Creek, Calif.

– Travis Hough, 35, Oakland, Calif.

– Donna Kellogg, 32, Oakland, Calif.

– Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, Hayward, Calif.

Some of the victims were aged 17 or younger, although most were in their 20s and 30s, officials said. Some were from elsewhere in the United States and abroad.

One of the dead was the son of a sheriff’s deputy, Kelly said, adding, “This tragedy has hit very close to home.”

Chris Nechodom, 30, said he was on the ground floor of the building when he saw flames race across the ceiling. As he fled, he heard a loud noise and saw a plume of thick black smoke.

“It blew out maybe 10 feet out of the entrance. After that, I saw a few more people crawl out.” Nechodom said he was unsure how many people had been inside.

Two friends embrace at memorial for California warehouse victims

Rachel Saxer (L) embraces friend La Tron at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a fatal warehouse fire in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, U.S. December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam


Photos of the ‘Ghost Ship’ venue posted online showed a space filled with an elaborate array of musical instruments, religious statues and antiques. Furnished with a mix of overstuffed sofas and colorful carpets, the site featured a maze of side rooms and nooks.

“The whole place was built like you are going to set up for a fire,” said Matt Hummel, 46, who twice visited the space before the fire and had helped renovate other warehouse spaces for artists.

The party took place on the second floor of the building, which appeared to have only two exits, officials said. There was no evidence of smoke detectors or sprinklers.

The city said it had received complaints about “blight” and construction without permits and opened an investigation. An inspector verified the “blight” complaint after observing piles of debris outside, but failed to gain access to verify the construction complaint.

Schaaf told reporters she did not know why inspectors were unable to get into the building, but she was putting together a team of city employees “to gather every piece of information.”

(Additional reporting by Tim McLaughlin in Chicago and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Nine dead, many missing, in California party fire

Firefighters exit a warehouse where a fire broke out during an electronic dance party late Friday evening, resulting in at least nine deaths and many unaccounted for in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, U.S

By Peter Henderson

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – At least nine people were dead and about 25 were unaccounted for after a massive fire broke out during a late-night party in a warehouse in Oakland, California, the city’s fire chief said on Saturday.

Fire officials were still trying to determine how the blaze started at about 11:30 p.m. on Friday, said Chief Teresa Deloach-Reed.

The roof of the two-story warehouse in the city’s Fruitvale district collapsed during the fire, complicating efforts to recover bodies, she told a press briefing.

Officials did not know if any of the 25 missing people were among the nine confirmed victims.

“There is a large majority of that building that has not been searched,” Deloach-Reed said during a press briefing.

“We are hoping that the number nine is what there is and that there are no more,” the fire chief said, referring to the number of known fatalities.

A charred wall is seen outside a warehouse after a fire broke out during an electronic dance party late Friday evening, resulting in at least nine deaths and many unaccounted for in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, U.S.

A charred wall is seen outside a warehouse after a fire broke out during an electronic dance party late Friday evening, resulting in at least nine deaths and many unaccounted for in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, U.S. December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Deloach-Reed said some of those who were missing may have brought themselves to the hospital or elsewhere. She said she did not know how many people were at the party.

The warehouse housed units where people lived and worked – makeshift artist studios carved out with partitions, the fire chief said. “A flea market of items” were inside, she said.

A Facebook event page showed 176 people planned to attend the party, which featured a performance by the electronic music act Golden Donna. The page, which listed 355 others as interested in going, carried posts from people who were either missing or accounted for.

Video footage posted on social media showed the structure engulfed in flames and encircled by fire vehicles pumping water into the building.

“It’s going to hit the city, it’s going to hit our organization,” Reed said. “It’s just going to be hard on everyone.”

(Additional reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Minor Quake Strikes Oakland Area

Some residents of the Easy Bay area didn’t need their alarm clocks to start the week as a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck the area early Monday morning.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported the quake struck at 6:49 a.m., three miles away from Oakland, California.  The quake was felt throughout the Oakland/San Francisco area.

Oakland police Lt. Chris Bolton reported on the department’s official Twitter feed that they had no reports of injuries or damage from the quake.

The quake struck along the Hayward fault, a major fault that remains a concern for geologists in the area.  The scientists believe that the fault could produce a potentially catastrophic quake that could kill tens of thousands.  The Hayward fault is part of the San Andreas fault system.

The fault runs for more than 60 miles through the region from Fremont to Hayward.  The fault runs under hospitals, freeways and reservoirs.  It even runs from end zone to end zone at the football stadium for the University of California Berkeley.

The quake was followed by six aftershocks.