CALIMESA (CBSLA) — At least one person has died in the Sandalwood Fire, which continued to burn in Calimesa in Riverside County.
Authorities confirmed one person died in the Sandalwood Fire, but would not say yet whether it was a man or a woman. Residents of the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, where several structures burned down, said they believed an 89-year-old woman who went missing during the evacuation died.
The Sandalwood Fire was 25 percent contained as of Saturday morning, and has so far destroyed 76 structures, damaged 14 others, and burned 832 acres overnight after breaking out at about 2 p.m. Thursday. More than 500 homes remained under mandatory evacuation orders that remained in place Friday.
A road closure remained in place on 7th Street between Sandalwood Boulevard and County Line Road.
“As of right now, we are trying to contain the fire within our control lines that we’ve established as of yesterday,” CalFire/Riverside County Fire Division Chief Todd Hopkins said.
In addition to the challenges posed by the extremely dry and windy weather, “we’re also competing with resources right now due to all the fire activity that’s going on in Southern California,” he said.
CalFire peace officers said the cause of the fire was a trash truck that dumped a load of burning trash into vegetation. The site where the burning trash was dumped remained cordoned off with crime scene tape.
Arson and homicide investigators were on the scene and working to determine whether anyone would be held responsible for the death caused by the fire, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said. In addition to the one confirmed death, two people remain unaccounted for and authorities were still in the process of identifying everyone who should have been in the mobile home park.
Anyone missing or unaccounted for can be reported to Riverside County sheriff’s non-emergency dispatch at 951-776-1099, Option 5, or by speaking to a deputy at the care and reception center at Mesa Grande Academy, 975 Fremont St. in Calimesa.
The area remained under a red flag warning, and Cathey Mattingly with CalFire asked that residents be patient.
“This is an active scene. Right now, you may not see smoke and flames, but we have a lot of work to do because a lot of structures did burn and we have to go through and we have to make sure the area’s safe before we can let residents back in,” Mattingly said.
The Sandalwood fire is the bigger of two wildfires that broke out in Riverside County Thursday – the other being the Reche Fire in Moreno Valley, which was holding steady at 350 acres and 75% contained.
Because of the continued dry and windy conditions, Mattingly said residents should remain prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
County health officials were urging residents in northern Riverside County to stay indoors because of smoke and ash being sent up by the Sandalwood and Reche fires. Many residents in that area of the county found their driveways and homes covered in white ash, officials said.
Riverside County Officials Hold News Conference On Sandalwood Fire