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Authorities Say Burning Trash Dumped By Truck Sparked Sandalwood Fire, Killing One, Destroying 74 Structures

Smoke billows from the Sandalwood Fire that broke out in Calimesa, located in Riverside County, on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (Courtesy of Riverside County Sheriff's Department)
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NOTE: This story is no longer being updated. Go here for the latest information on the Sandalwood Fire.

A fire that authorities say was sparked when a trash truck dumped its burning load near brush has killed one person and destroyed more than 70 structures, including many homes in a Calimesa mobile home park.

The individual was killed in the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, Cal Fire spokeswoman Cathey Mattingly said. Other people were injured, but she said she did not know the number or severity.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said there are two other people who have not been located, but he said he did not want to characterize them as "missing." Authorities are in the process of identifying everyone who would have been inside the mobile home park, he said.

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

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

The fire started when a trash truck caught fire "and the trash was jettisoned out of the back of the vehicle and caught the vegetation on fire," said Riverside County Cal Fire Division Chief Todd Hopkins. He said the incident happened at an intersection near the mobile home park.

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for neighborhoods south of the 10 Freeway. Redlands fire authorities said the fire threat to their city, about nine miles west of Calimesa, had been mitigated.

Seventh Street between Sandalwood Drive and County Line Road in Calimesa remains closed, and will be "possibly the rest of the day," Bianco said.

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


  • Acreage: 823 acres
  • Containment: 10%
  • Mandatory evacuations: See map above
  • Evacuation centers (humans & animal):
    • Calimesa Senior Center at 908 Park Avenue in Calimesa
    • 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"


The flames were reported shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday on Sandalwood Drive near the 10 Freeway, according to Cal Fire Riverside. In less than two hours, the Sandalwood Fire had reached 500 acres.


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For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:



10:45 a.m.: This article was updated with the information about the death.

11:35 a.m.: This article was updated with the remarks from Sheriff Bianco and Division Chief Hopkins, along with updated information on the number of structures destroyed.

2:00 p.m.: This article was updated to correct the number of structures destroyed.


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