OAKLAND (KRON) — Dec. 2, 2016 was a Friday night.
Dozens of people showed up for a dance party at an off the grid haven for Oakland’s creative community, when suddenly a destructive fire exploded.
Survivors remember smelling smoke and hearing someone yell ‘fire.’
“By the time I got through the front door, I could see the flames engulfed the front archway of my studio,” said a fire survivor.
With his clothes smoldering, one resident tried to save a fellow tenant with a broken ankle, but had to leave him behind
The nearest fire station was just a block away, but when the first engines arrived at 11:30 p.m. they were already too late.
By that time the entire second floor had collapsed
“Young people were texting their families that they loved them or that they were going to die,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.
Firefighters say they tried to enter the building but the dense smoke and debris on the floor made it unsafe.
It took five hours for 52 firefighters to extinguish the flames
Daylight revealed the devastation as investigators began the difficult job of searching for human remains .
“It was heartbreaking,” said Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton.
Thirty six bodies were identified in the ashes.
“The highest number of fire fatalities in the United States in the last 13 years,” said a spokesperson with ATF.
They were mourned by Oakland’s mayor as well as local artists.
“A terrible tragedy,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf.
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