Survivors of Oakland Warehouse Fire Describe 15-Foot Flames and Watching Their Home Burn

"Ghost Ship" residents Nikki Kelber and Carmen Brito describe the terrifying scene

Two survivors of the Oakland warehouse fire that claimed the lives of at least 36 people on Friday night are mourning the loss of their neighbors and their home.

“Ghost Ship” residents Nikki Kelber and Carmen Brito appeared on Today Monday morning to describe the terrifying scene.

Kelber, a two-year resident of the building, said she heard others yelling about the fire before she saw it for herself.

“I opened my gate, I looked down the hallway and I saw 15-foot flames and what appeared to be a fireball coming towards me,” she said.

The artist went back inside to retrieve her cat and was “hit with a giant black wall of smoke that immediately rendered me unable to breathe or to see.”

The power went out, but Kelber managed to find her pet and escape to safety outside.

Other residents weren’t as fortunate. Brito shared that one of their male neighbors died in the tragedy that claimed the lives of victims as young as 17.

“We lost one of our own in the fire, and we all knew right away,” Brito said. “We all watched our home burn and we knew that he was inside.”

Brito said that although they knew the warehouse was not cleared for residential living, it was the only place many artists could afford to live in the Bay Area.

“At some point when you need somewhere to sleep at night, it doesn’t matter whether you have a piece of paper telling you that’s okay or not,” she said.

Oakland Warehouse Party Fire

The Sheriff’s Office confirmed that they have launched a criminal investigation into the fire. They also revealed that they were finding victims in every section of the warehouse, including “where we least expect them.”

Many of the victims are thought to be artists, musicians and members of the thriving local music scene in Oakland. However, the list of victims is not limited to Oakland residents as authorities announced Sunday that some of the deceased include people from Europe and Asia.

The tragic fire has been deemed one of the deadliest structure fires in the country within the past decade. Approximately 100 people were in attendance for the event, which featured a performance from Madison, Wisconsin-based electronic act Golden Donna. According to a Facebook page for the event, which was called a rave, attendees could get their hair and nails done at a “secret East Oakland location,” which was announced the day of the show.

The fire was initially reported at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, according to KTVU. Authorities told KTVU the warehouse at 1305 31st St., which was known as the Ghost Ship, included living quarters for artists and their studios.

Kelly told reporters that authorities intended to remain at the scene “for days and days to come,” according to The New York Times.

“We know that there are bodies in there that we cannot get to, that have been seen but have not been recovered,” Kelly said, adding that they were “expecting the worst, maybe a couple dozen victims.”

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