Orange County Man Escapes Oakland Warehouse Fire With Dogs

"By the time I got out of my space into the hallway, I can see smoke and the flames behind me," he said.

An Orange County native who lived and worked in the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland escaped the flames that left at least 36 others dead in a horrific blaze Friday.

"By the time I got out of my space into the hallway, I can see smoke and the flames behind me -- just coming toward the front of the building," said Jose Avalos.

Avalos was working as a sculptor in the Bay Area and living in the warehouse for two years before it went up in flames.

He said he was one of about 25 people who lived in loft spaces on the first floor of the warehouse and that the electronic music party was happening upstairs on the second floor.

He said he knew the building was "not up to code," but that it was an affordable living-solution for artists who can't afford to live elsewhere in the Bay Area.

On Friday night, he was taking care of his two dogs in his loft when the fire broke out upstairs and everyone rushed to evacuate the building.

"I heard somebody scream, 'Fire! Get me a fire extinguisher!'" Avalos said. "So I ran to jump down from my loft to go try and help, but before I could even do that, they called out a second time, 'Fire! Everybody, get out!'

Then he had to think fast.

"I grabbed my dog that was closest to me, Elsa, and I jumped down from my loft, put her down and then came up to get my other dog Frankenstein, and by then, my whole loft was engulfed in smoke," Avalos said of his escape.

It's still unclear what started the fire.

The investigation was still ongoing Monday. Officers had combed through 70 percent of the building and were to resume searching for additional victims hidden in the rubble later Monday.

"We are no closer to finding a cause, and we absolutely believe the number of fire fatalities will increase," said Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton at an early Monday news conference.

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