CALIMESA (CBSLA) – Firefighters Monday continued to make progress on the devastating Sandalwood Fire which has destroyed dozens of homes and killed at least two people in the Riverside County city of Calimesa. The 1,011 acre blaze was 94 percent contained as of 6:20 a.m. Monday, according to the CAL Fire/Riverside County Fire Department.
Crews were continuing to secure control lines around the fire. The Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park remained under mandatory evacuation orders.
The fire broke out on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 10 in the area of Sandalwood Drive and Calimesa Boulevard, east of Mesa View Middle School.
Investigators believe it was sparked by a trash truck which attempted to dump a load of burning garbage into the vegetation. CBS2 obtained cell phone video of the burning truck just prior to when it dumped its load. Shawn Melvin’s 8-year-old son shot footage of the truck on fire as they followed behind in their own car.
“I pulled up to him (the driver) and said, ‘You cannot stay here,'” Melvin told CBS2 Friday. “‘With the wind, and the field right there, you’re going to catch everything on fire.’ He kind of looked me like, ‘What do you want me to do?’”
At least 74 structures were destroyed and another 16 were damaged, CAL Fire reports. At the fire’s height, more than 500 homes were evacuated.
At least two people have died in the fire and a third is missing. The remains of both victims were found at the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park. One of the victims was identified as 89-year-old Lois Arvikson of Calimesa. Their causes of death are still being investigated.
Investigators with both CAL Fire and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department are working to determine whether any charges will be brought in connection with the fire, Sheriff Chad Bianco said Saturday.