OAKLAND, Calif. - At last count, 36 people died in Friday night's inferno at an Oakland, California warehouse.
One-by-one several victims have been identified. But the entire building has not been searched. As firefighters use shovels to remove debris — bucket-by-bucket — they fully expect the body count to rise.
“We are no closer to finding a cause and we absolutely believe the number of fire fatalities will increase," Oakland Fire Chief Melinda Drayton said.
It could take weeks to identify any charred remains yet to be recovered. The sheriff's office is telling families missing loved ones to save hairbrushes and toothbrushes for DNA comparisons. For one woman whose friends are still missing, it's almost too much to bear.
"The reality for all of us is beginning to set in.”
Adding to this tragedy is news that the building, known as the ghost ship, had been under investigation for code violations. Police said there was no evidence of sprinklers. And without enough exits, many were simply trapped.
"It breaks your heart especially since this didn't have to happen," Danielle Boudreaux said.
What about Houston? We have our fair share of warehouses. That's one reason this city has made changes over the years to the inspection process, including educating the inspectors and working closely with the Fire Marshall.
"And I think we really are on the cutting edge trying to prevent anything from happening like this through the possibility of inspection provisions,” Houston's permitting director, Earl Greer, said.
For those who somehow managed to escape the Oakland blaze, there's hardly relief. They'll continue to grieve for those who could not be saved.
"I was pulling him out,” Bob Mule said about a friend. “The flames were too much. There was too much smoke and I had to let him go."
Friday night;s electronic dance party was operating without a permit when the massive fire gutted the converted warehouse.
Here at home, we have what's known as "occupancy provisions." They're supposed to ensure buildings are occupied for their intended use.
"We want to make sure that when someone uses a building for a specific use, the building has been inspected for that use and us safe for that reason."
Among the dead identified so far in California are singers, musicians and artists.
So much talent, up in flames.