Fire kills at least 9 at dance party

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Fire tore through an Oakland warehouse converted into artist studios during a late night dance party, killing at least nine people, and officials said Saturday that the death toll could rise as high as 40.

Officials said people either escaped from the cluttered building or died inside, where the only way down from the second story was via a stairwell constructed entirely of wooden pallets.

“It appears that either you got out or you got trapped inside,” said Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly.

Firefighters used chain saws and axes Saturday to cut through the debris of the cluttered building in a gritty neighborhood of the San Francisco Bay Area city, where the fire broke out about 11:30 p.m. Friday.

Oakland fire chief Teresa Deloche-Reed said at least another 25 people were unaccounted for in what authorities were calling the most deadly building fire in the city in recent memory. The victims were believed to be young people in their 20s, Kelly said. He said as many as 40 may have perished and that the coroner is preparing for a “mass casualty event” that could include victims from other countries.