Sandalwood Fire: Mobile Home Park Remains Closed As Fire Tops 1,000 Acres

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)

Evacuations for the surrounding area have been lifted, but Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park remains closed due to unsafe conditions as the Sandalwood Fire burned into its fifth day in Riverside County on Monday.

So far, the fire has consumed more than 1,000 acres and was 94% contained. Fire officials said it was unclear when full containment would be reached and when evacuations would be lifted.

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. A day later, authorities found a second person dead at the mobile home park, Riverside County sheriff's officials said.

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 that was under mandatory evacuations; evacuations have been lifted in the blue area, remain in the red area. (USDA FSA | City of Riverside, Riverside County, Esri, HERE) Get an interactive map here >>

WHAT WE KNOW AS OF 9 AM MONDAY

  • Acreage: 1,011 acres
  • Containment: 94%
  • Mandatory evacuations: See map above. Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park remains closed due to unsafe conditions.
  • Road closure: 7th Street between Villa Calimesa Road and Sandalwood Drive
  • Evacuation centers (humans & animal):
    • Evacuation center: Mesa Grande Academy, 975 Fremond St., Calimesa
  • 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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With contributions from Mike Roe.