Officials announce that no evidence suggests arson caused Oakland fire

Dapree Doyle/Senior Staff

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Updated 12/07/16: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from the city of Oakland.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has not found any evidence that arson was the cause of the Oakland fire, said Jill Snyder, the special agent in charge of the San Francisco division, at a press conference Wednesday.

The fire took place in an Oakland warehouse Friday night and killed 36 people, among them UC Berkeley students Vanessa Plotkin and Jenny Morris, as well as UC Berkeley alumni Griffin Madden and David Cline and KALX volunteer Chelsea Dolan. Snyder said officials have finished searching the building and are continuing with the investigation for the cause of the fire.

Officials determined that the fire started on the first floor of the building and travelled to the second floor but found no evidence that a fire suppression system was installed in the building. Snyder said this fire caused the highest number of fire fatalities in the United States in the past 13 years — since the Rhode Island Station nightclub fire, which killed 100.

At the press conference, Snyder denied allegations that the refrigerator was the cause of the fire. According to Snyder, ATF has not yet determined the cause of the fire. Although there is no evidence to suggest arson, Snyder said officials have not definitively ruled it out.

“We’re looking at every possible source of ignition, but no conclusion has been made at this time as to what the source of ignition is,” Snyder said, adding that the investigation could take up to several weeks.

In response to the circulation of misinformation, Snyder asked the public not to preemptively distribute information about the cause of the fire.

“Please let us complete our investigation thoroughly,” said Snyder. “I assure you, as soon as we have determined a cause and origin of the fire, we will let you know.”

Officials completed search and recovery efforts Wednesday morning and did not find any new victims. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has notified the families of 32 of the 36 victims and are in the process of notifying three others. One victim still awaits scientific identification, according to the city’s press release. On Wednesday afternoon, the city of Oakland released the names of two of the 36 victims: Jason McCarty and Wolfgang Renner.

Mark Pazin, chief of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Law Enforcement Branch, also attended the press conference. He expressed his condolences for the victims’ families on behalf of Governor Jerry Brown.

In a campuswide email, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced that the campus will hold a vigil in Zellerbach Hall on Thursday at noon to honor the UC Berkeley students, graduates and affiliates lost in the fire.

There are no other press briefings scheduled in the near future.

Contact Chantelle Lee and Cassandra Vogel at [email protected].