As death toll from Oakland fire rises to 33, 3 with Berkeley ties are dead, 3 others reported missing

At least six people with Berkeley ties have been reported missing or deceased after Friday's three-alarm fire in Oakland. They are (from left) Nick Gomez-Hall, David T. Cline and Donna Kellogg; and Vanessa Plotkin, Jenny Morris and Griffin Madden. Gomez-Hall, Cline and Kellogg have been confirmed to have been killed.
At least six people with Berkeley ties have been reported missing or deceased after Friday’s three-alarm fire in Oakland. They are (from left) Nick Gomez-Hall, David T. Cline and Donna Kellogg; and Vanessa Plotkin, Jenny Morris and Griffin Madden. Gomez-Hall, Cline and Kellogg have been confirmed to have been killed.

Update, Monday, Dec. 5, 8:55 a.m. A talented visual artist from Berkeley who made a name for himself in the international electronic music scene is reportedly among those killed Friday night in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland. Friends and former classmates have planned a “candlelight and laser vigil” Monday night for 34-year-old Jonathan Bernbaum at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. He graduated from the program in 2008.

The confirmed death toll has risen to 36, and authorities have suspended recovery efforts until Monday afternoon due to unsafe conditions. Read more.

Update, 6:15 p.m. The city of Oakland has released the first seven names of those killed during the Ghost Ship warehouse fire Friday night. They are Oakland residents Cash Askew, 22, David Cline, 35, Travis Hough, 35, and Donna Kellogg, 32; Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward; Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, of Coronado; and Sara Hoda, 30, of Walnut Creek.

Cline and Gomez-Hall had Berkeley ties and further information about them appears below.


Kellogg worked at Berkeley’s Highwire Coffee Roasters and was well-known to many in the community. She was a barista at Highwire’s coffee trailer at Solano Avenue’s Flowerland nursery. Said one community member, “She made a lot of people their coffee and will be deeply missed by customers, coworkers and friends.”

There have been reports that the fire broke out near a wooden stairway made of pallets that was the only link between the first and second floors of the artist collective, which has been described as a rabbit warren and, ultimately, a tinderbox due to its cramped collection of wooden furniture, sculpture and other materials. The main party area, where musicians were performing and people were dancing, was on the second floor.

One friend, writing Sunday about Kellogg on Facebook, said, “Donna was on the second floor. She was a beautiful giggly, wise, person who will be very missed.”

Highwire has asked for privacy during “the very difficult process of absorbing the horror of what has happened” and being able to grieve.

According to the city, one of the victims is a 17-year-old whose name will not be released because he or she was a minor.

Original story, 3:58 p.m. Two friends from UC Berkeley, two UC Berkeley alumni and one staff member from a West Berkeley publishing house are among the dozens reported dead or missing after the three-alarm fire that tore through an Oakland warehouse during a party at an artist collective late Friday night.

All five have been reported missing by friends or family online. They are Nick Gomez-Hall, 26, administrative assistant at Counterpoint Press; UC Berkeley alumni Griffin Madden, 23, and David Cline, 24; and current UC Berkeley students Vanessa Plotkin and Jenny Morris. According to their Facebook pages, Cline and Plotkin are also Berkeley residents.

Plotkin had just begun studying sociology at UC Berkeley in August, according to her Facebook page. Morris, who lived in San Mateo, also began attending UC Berkeley this year, according to her profile page on Facebook. The two were friends, according to their Facebook pages.

Madden graduated from Cal in 2015 with bachelor’s degrees in both philosophy and slavic languages and literature, according to the UC Berkeley alumni directory. Cline also graduated last year with bachelor’s degrees in cognitive science and computer science, according to the same source. Cline is from Santa Monica and Madden from San Francisco.

Gomez-Hall is from San Diego, and is “a talented artist who’d just started doing book design,” according to Counterpoint: “Everyone on staff here in Berkeley, and in Portland and New York, is simply heartbroken,” said one person familiar with the situation.

As of Sunday afternoon, 33 fatalities had been confirmed, according to the Alameda County sheriff’s office. The Alameda County coroner’s office is in the process of identifying the victims.

The Alameda County district attorney’s office has activated its criminal investigation teams “and is
actively looking at this with all of the other law enforcement partners,” the city reports.

The "Ghost Ship" fire in Oakland. Photo: ACSO
The aftermath of the “Ghost Ship” fire in Oakland. Photo: ACSO

The Daily Cal first reported the “missing” status of Madden, Cline, Plotkin and Morris earlier this weekend.

The deadly fire took place at an artist collective’s warehouse called the “Ghost Ship” during the Golden Donna 100% Silk 2016 West Coast Tour, according to the Facebook page for the event, which has since been turned into a memorial page. The warehouse has been identified as the home of the Satya Yuga collective.

According to numerous reports, the building had no fire alarms or sprinklers, and only a staircase made of pallets connected the first floor to the second. Berkeley resident Diego Aguilar-Canabal told The New York Times he had been to the warehouse once last summer “and remembered it as a dim and cluttered area with a ‘maze’ of furniture, canvas paintings on the walls and papier-mâché hanging from the ceilings.”

A candlelight vigil is planned for Monday at Lake Merritt’s pergola, 559 El Embarcadero, at 8 p.m. and the Oakland A’s have set up a donation page to help victims of the fire. The Oakland Raiders have also signed on to support the fundraising effort, and the organizations each plan to match up to $30,000 in relief donations, up to $60,000.

As of Sunday afternoon, seven victims had been identified and their families had been notified by authorities. Their names have not been released. At least nine bodies were recovered and removed Saturday.

The three-alarm fire broke out Friday, Dec. 2, just after 11:30 p.m. at 1315 31st Ave. in Oakland.

“The badly damaged building has required shoring, and first responders have begun retrieving the deceased. The roof of the building collapsed onto the second floor which has complicated the process of recovery effort,” according to a statement released Sunday morning by the city of Oakland. “This process will be undertaken in a methodical and thorough process in a humane and compassionate manner to ensure that the victims are recovered and identified, and to make sure their families have this information as expeditiously as possible.”

"A Look into The Yuga" in 2014. Photo: Satya Yuga
“A Look into The Yuga” in 2014. Photo: Satya Yuga

As of Sunday afternoon, the Oakland Fire Department, Oakland Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and Oakland Public Works Department were recovering bodies from the warehouse.

“To ensure the safety of the first responders, more shoring has been placed to secure the collapsed sections of the building. This will allow first responders to safely proceed with the recovery process,” the city said in a statement released at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Multiple agencies have been working together on the recovery, as well as on the investigation into what caused the fire.

“Personnel have created pathways through the debris, dividing the building into quadrants and removing debris by hand, bucket-by-bucket. This methodical and painstaking approach is important to respectfully remove the victims and carefully process the scene,” according to the city. As of Sunday afternoon, about 30% of the building had been searched.

When the roof collapsed, authorities had to breach a cinderblock wall Saturday at about 10 p.m. using heavy rescue equipment to remove debris.

The city has brought in counseling services for first-responders and their support teams due to the “devastation of the scene.”

The coroner’s bureau and American Red Cross have set up a Family Assistance Center for family and friends who are looking for loved ones. The center is located at 2425 E. 12th St. Grief counseling and resources are available.

The city says it will undertake a “thorough investigation of what occurred.”

“We are committed to bringing every resource to bear to determine what happened here and how such a tragic event could have occurred. Our priority is to bring closure to this tragedy for the victims’ families,” according to Sunday morning’s statement.

According to the city, the building’s last permitted use was as a warehouse. On Nov. 13, the city received complaints about blight and unpermitted interior construction there. On Nov. 17, a city inspector verified the blight complaint but was unable to get inside the building to confirm the report of interior construction. That investigation is ongoing.

The following individuals are listed after the message “REST IN PEACE ANGELS” on the memorial page for the Ghost Ship party: Alana Kane, Alex Ghassan, Amanda Kershaw, Ara Christina Jo, Barrett Clark, Ben Runnels, Cash Askew, Chase aka Nex Iguolo, Chelsea Faith Dolan, David Cline, Denalda Nicole Renae aka Nicole Siegrist, Em B, Feral Pines aka J. Fritz, Griffin Madden, Hanna Ruax, Jason MCarty, Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, Joey Casio, Johan Handel, Johnny Igaz, Jonathan Bernbaum, Micah Danemayer, Michelle Sylvan, Nicholas Walrath, Peter Wadsworth, Travis Hough, William Dixon and Wolfgang Renner.

A list with links to photographs of many on the list was published Saturday on Heavy.com.

Related:
Remembering David Cline: ‘A ferociously brilliant student and impossibly bright mind’ (12.05.16)
Beloved ‘VJ’ and BHS alum killed in Oakland fire; LA vigil planned for Jonathan Bernbaum (12.05.16)

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