Dramatic video has emerged of the Oakland warehouse fire that left at least 24 people dead, showing the minutes the flames began to race through the building packed with concertgoers.
The fire broke out at an event on Friday night, leading to what witnesses described as chaotic scenes and a grim search for victims in the days that followed.
While authorities in the Bay Area are still sifting through debris and piecing together details of how the fire started and spread so quickly, some videos of the Oakland warehouse fire are shedding light on the enormity of it.
One video posted to Twitter in the early morning hours on Saturday showed the structure engulfed in flames.
Another shows thick plumes of smoke extending hundreds of feet into the air.
The videos were eerily reminiscent of footage that came from another fire disaster, the Station Nightclub blaze in 2003 that left 100 people dead. The Rhode Island nightclub was hosting a concert at the time the fire broke out, and one concertgoer was able to capture the start of it and the frantic minutes that followed on video.
That footage became a grim piece of national history as well as an important tool for investigators to find out how the fire spread so quickly and the deficiencies of the building.
The Oakland warehouse fire was also made worse by the structure itself, which one former resident told the Los Angeles Times was a “tinderbox” of wooden structures and no modern fire safety measures. The first floor was also described as a maze-like structure, which could have made escape nearly impossible.
“People who previously lived in the warehouse recalled a building that lacked fire sprinklers and had a staircase partly made of wooden pallets. Partygoers recalled a rabbit warren of rooms crammed with belongings — pianos, organs, antique furniture, doors and half-finished sculptures.
“Photos on the warehouse’s Tumblr page show a maze of rooms, with walls and dividers made from pianos, boxes, salvaged doors and other materials. Wooden rafters were adorned with hanging lanterns, holiday lights, bicycles, stereo equipment and exposed wiring.”
Recovery crews initially found nine victims of the Oakland warehouse fire on Saturday, and found 15 more bodies overnight. There could be as many as 40 inside, as police said that about two dozen people had remained missing.
The videos that emerged of the Oakland warehouse fire show exactly what witnesses inside described — a scene of utter chaos where the flames quickly engulfed the building.
Bob Mulè, a member of a “24-hour artists’ collective” living inside the warehouse, said he scrambled to escape and then stopped to help a fellow resident named Pete Wadsworth.
“He must have broken his ankle while coming down from his loft and his space and he needed me to pull him out,” Mulè told NBC News. “I tried my best and there was just stuff in the way some stuff had fallen and it was hectic.”
Mulè said he only survived because a heavy leather vest absorbed the worst of the flames. He was certain that Wadsworth did not survive.
The search efforts after the Oakland warehouse fire were long and tedious. Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly told NBC News that the large amount of charred debris made it difficult to work through the building, saying that firefighters were digging out ‘bucketful by bucketful.” And every time these crews find another body, they have to stop to conduct an investigation, he said.
Authorities have not yet said if there is video from inside the Oakland warehouse fire, which could shed more light on what first caused it and how the flames spread.
[Featured Image by Josh Edelson/AP Images]