Sandalwood Fire: Containment Rises To 86%, Mandatory Evacuations Remain In Place

Blackened terrain leads up to the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, where many homes were lost in the Sandalwood wildfire, seen Friday, Oct. 11, 2019. (Amy Taxin/AP)

NOTE: This story is no longer being updated. Go here for the latest information on the Sandalwood Fire.

A second person was found dead at a mobile home park in Calimesa as a result of a massive fire that tore through the area, Riverside County sheriff's officials said. The remains were found Friday night during a search of the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park.

Sunday marks the fourth day firefighters worked to put out the Sandalwood Fire in Riverside County, which has burned 1,011 acres and is 86% contained, according to Cal Fire officials.

Firefighters were hopeful over the weekend about making progress as weather conditions improved.

"Instead of getting air coming out of the desert, we're getting the air coming out of the ocean," said Jeff LaRusso, a spokesman for the Riverside County Fire Department/Cal Fire. He added that humidity was also slightly higher than in previous days.

By 6:35 p.m. Sunday, it was still unclear when the fire would be fully contained and mandatory evacuations remained in place. Because of the amount of structures threatened, firefighters have had to concentrate their efforts on battling the interior of the fire, Russo said.

HOW IT STARTED

The fire broke out Thursday shortly before 2 p.m. at Calimesa Boulevard and Sandalwood Drive, after a trash truck dumped its burning load near brush, according to Cal Fire officials. That fire quickly spread to a nearby mobile home park.

Both Mesa View Middle School and Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park were evacuated, Riverside County Sheriff's Department said in a news release.

The first human remains were found inside of a burnt mobile home in Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park and were later identified as Lois Arvikson, an 89-year-old resident of Calimesa.

Because there has been a death, arson investigators are "working to determine whether there will be any criminal culpability," said Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, adding, "we won't know that for some time."

The investigators will try to determine if this was a case of illegal dumping, Bianco told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Screenshot shows area under mandatory evacuations. Get an interactive map here >>

WHAT WE KNOW AS OF 6:30 PM SUNDAY

  • Acreage: 1,011 acres
  • Containment: 86%
  • Mandatory evacuations: See map above. South of 7th Street, east of County Line Road
  • Road closure: 7th Street at Sandalwood and 7th Street at County Line Road
  • Evacuation centers (humans & animal):
    • Evacuation center: Calimesa Senior Center at 908 Park Avenue in Calimesa
    • Care and reception center: Mesa Grande Academy, 975 Fremond St., Calimesa
    • Animal shelter: San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus at 581 S. Grand Ave. (large and small animals)
  • Structures destroyed: 74
  • Structures damaged: 16
  • Resources deployed: CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire is in unified command with CAL FIRE San Bernardino-City of Yucaipa, City of Calimesa and Riverside County Sheriff's Department
  • Air quality: Smoke advisory issued for people with "sensitive health conditions"

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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FIRE RESOURCES

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UPDATES:

Oct. 13, 6:38 p.m.: This article was updated with new containment numbers.

Oct. 13, 7 a.m.: This article was updated with new containment numbers.

7 p.m.: This article was updated with information about the size and containment of the fire.

12 p.m.: This article was updated with information about a second death and the identification of the first victim.

10 a.m.: This article was updated with information about weather conditions and an interview with a Cal Fire spokesman.

This article was originally published at 7:30 a.m.