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Oakland residents mourn victims in deadly warehouse fire

Oakland residents mourn victims in deadly warehouse fire
Hillary Morse, 22, of Oakland mourns the loss of two of her close friends in the warehouse fire in Oakland. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

All 36 victims of Friday's Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland have been identified, officials announced Thursday.

Authorities, who concluded their search for bodies the day before, used DNA analysis to ID the last set of remains, according to Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

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The victim's name will be released after family members are notified.

Officials now are creating a 3-D model of the warehouse to show where each victim was found, Kelly said.

Also on Thursday, authorities began to remove the cordon of metal railings, police tape and squad cars that surrounded the warehouse. At the same time, residents, mourners and the curious returned to the neighborhood.

Teacher Adrianna Alvarez and her students crowded a sidewalk at the makeshift vigil outside the building on Thursday morning. They hung messages for victims on a fence at the site.

She explained to the group of 60 fifth- and sixth-graders from nearby St. Elizabeth Elementary the important role police and firefighters have in the community. Alvarez, who is also an artist, said she knew people who lost friends in the fire.

Alvarez said the trip was necessary for the students so they could understand the devastation of the deadly blaze and the importance of artists needing a "safe space" to express themselves and do their work

"There's not enough space for young people," Alvarez said. "We need to invest in that."

Outside the gutted warehouse, a team of fire inspectors and electrical engineers with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives continued their investigate what sparked the blaze during the concert Friday night.

The faint smell of burnt wood lingered in the air as investigators carefully scoured the site.

On Wednesday, officials said no building code enforcement inspector had been inside the warehouse in at least 30 years. At least three complaints filed with the city about the warehouse appeared to indicate that structures had been built inside without permits or that the property was being used as a residence.

Investigators also have determined the warehouse was not equipped with fire alarms or a fire-suppression system. But they still need to determine the layout of the scorched building.

Jill A. Snyder, special agent in charge of the ATF bureau in San Francisco, said the fire appears to have started on the first floor. The victims were trapped and overtaken by smoke that traveled up internal stairwells.

The inside of the building had two staircases connecting the top and bottom floors but no fire exits to the outside from the second floor.

"The fire was well-developed by the time second-floor occupants realized there was a fire going on the first floor," she said.

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Investigators have yet to determine a cause for the fire, but they are looking at all possible sources of ignition, Snyder said.

Like the rest of the Bay Area, resident Nancy Lopez said she's been paying attention every day to the latest news about the fire.

When the 40-year-old Oakland resident learned on Wednesday that no fire inspector had been in the building in three decades, her eyes widened with surprise.

"I know they're understaffed, I know they're under-budgeted," Lopez said, "but you have to have priorities."

She said she understands why the people who lived in the warehouse decided to stay there.

"Rent here is really high," she said. "People are not making enough to live. ... I saw online rent there was 400 or 500. I would take that too."

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