OAKLAND, Calif. (CNN) — At least 30 people have been confirmed dead in a massive blaze that gutted a converted warehouse over the weekend during an electronic dance party.
The death toll is expected to rise as crews search the wreckage of the two-story building, which burst into flames late Friday night. Only some 20% of the building had been searched as of Sunday morning, authorities said.
“The number of lives lost will increase,” said Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly. Authorities are asking the families of victims to preserve DNA information — found on such items as hairbrushes and toothbrushes — in clean paper bags.
The names of some victims could be released Sunday, he said.
It could take weeks to identify other victims through DNA and dental records, Kelly said. He added that officials were also working with the transgender community to identify some of the victims.
Oakland battalion fire chief Melinda Drayton said the recovery search would be long and arduous as firefighters work to remove debris “literally bucket by bucket in a methodical, thoughtful, mindful and compassionate way.”
“We had firefighters with basically coveralls and buckets and shovels taking bits of debris out into the vacant lot to be loaded into dump trucks and removed to an off-site location,” she said.
Drayton, who has been with the department for 19 years, called it one of the most deadly fires in the city’s history.
An Oakland Hills fire in 1991 killed 25 people.
Even after firefighters put out the blaze Saturday, the building was deemed too unsafe for emergency crews to enter.
Officials say the roof collapsed onto the second floor and then parts of that collapsed on to the first floor.
“There’s limited access to the structure,” Reed told CNN affiliate KRON-TV in San Francisco “It’s too unsafe. And not only that, there’s a lot of heavy wood from when the roof caved in that’s going to have to be removed.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called the fire an “immense tragedy” and pledged to get a “full accounting” that could be shared with the public as quickly as possible.
The building is known as the “Ghost Ship.”
Photos posted online show an interior cluttered with drums, keyboards, guitars, clocks, ornate beds, plush sofas, mirrored dressers, tables, benches and artifacts.
Exotic lamps hang from the ceiling, and paintings adorn some of the walls.