Federal Investigators Eyeing Appliances and Electrical Cords as Possible Cause of Deadly Warehouse Fire - NBC Bay Area
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Federal Investigators Eyeing Appliances and Electrical Cords as Possible Cause of Deadly Warehouse Fire

Specialized engineers from the ATF are sifting through debris, looking for anything electrical that could have started blaze.

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    Federal investigators continue to arrive at the Oakland warehouse, searching for clues about how the fire started. The Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms confirmed crews are looking at appliances and electrical cords as the possible cause of the fire. The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit was the first news agency to speak with agents, and take a tour of the bureau’s special on-scene operations center. Liz Wagner reports in a story that aired on Dec. 6, 2016. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016)

    Federal investigators are examining electrical appliances and equipment inside the Oakland warehouse that burned Friday, killing at least 36 people.

    Specialized teams from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are already on scene. A second electrical engineer and a fire protection engineer will join the investigation on Wednesday, according to Jill Snyder, Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco ATF office. One electrical engineer arrived on Tuesday.

    “The electrical engineer will go through every appliance, cord, anything electrical to identify if that could be the cause of the fire,” Synder said.  

    Synder expects crews to finish digging in the area where investigators believe the fire started by Tuesday night. She said investigators will need at least another day to determine the exact cause of the fire.

    “They are still doing their job,” Snyder said. “We will probably know more in the next day or two, but it’s a little premature to make any statements about what the origin and cause are right now.”

    Snyder confirmed what multiple former residents have alleged; that electrical issues continued to be a problem inside the warehouse, where up to 20 artists may have lived.

    “There are a lot of electrical issues going on in that building,” Snyder said.

    She also said teams from the ATF have been conducting interviews with former residents and visitors, as well as survivors and others who can provide clues as to where the fire started. Derick Ion Almena, the controversial lease holder of the warehouse – blamed by many for allowing unsafe conditions inside – said in an interview with NBC Bay Area that the ATF interviewed him on Sunday.

    The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit was the first news agency on Tuesday to take a tour of the ATF’s mobile command unit, which is stationed just around the corner from the warehouse. It’s one of six mobile units in the country that are dispatched to big fire events. The command unit acts as an office where various agencies can meet privately to discuss developments in the investigation.

    Federal investigators are assisting the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in its investigation, and helping the Oakland Police Department process the scene for evidence.

    The probe could lead to federal criminal charges, though Snyder said arson is likely not the cause of the deadly fire.

    If you have a tip for the Investigative Unit, email theunit@nbcbayarea.com or call 888-996-TIPS.