Sandalwood Fire: Firefighters reach full containment of deadly blaze

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019
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As containment of a deadly 1,000-acre blaze in Calimesa increased, public health officials were warning of unsafe conditions at a mobile home park which was ravaged by the flames.

CALIMESA, Calif. (KABC) -- Firefighters have reached full containment of the deadly 1,000-acre blaze in Calimesa as public health officials warn of unsafe conditions at a mobile home park which was ravaged by the flames, resulting in the loss of dozens of structures.

Though evacuation orders for the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park were lifted Monday morning, the area would remain closed to all residents due to a "public health menace," according to a press release from the Riverside County Department of Public Health.

It was not clear when the area would be reopened for residents to return to the homes which emerged unscathed by the destructive fire.

The Sandalwood Fire, which started Thursday when a trash truck dumped burning garbage in the area, was 100% contained by Monday evening, Cal Fire officials said.

Its final size was measured at 1,011 acres.

A second body was found over the weekend at the mobile park home. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department said the body, which has yet to be identified, was found while authorities were searching a burnt mobile home. Additional information was not released.

The circumstances surrounding the first fatality and those who are unaccounted for were not immediately clear. However, the sheriff's department identified the first victim as 89-year-old Lois Arvikson of Calimesa.

The fire destroyed 76 structures, mainly homes at a hilltop mobile home park, fire officials confirmed. An additional 16 structures were damaged, nine moderately and five minimally.

The flames from the burning pile of trash quickly spread and ignited nearby vegetation in flames, according to Cal Fire Riverside Capt. Fernando Herrera.

Investigators are still working to determine if any criminal charges will be filed in connection with the fire.

VIDEO: Man loses home in Sandalwood Fire on eve of his birthday

City and county officials declared a local emergency, and mandatory evacuation orders were issued for south of Seventh Street and east of County Line Road.

A shelter for residents is open at Mesa Grande Academy at 975 Fremont St. An animal evacuation center was also set up for families with large and small animals. Animals may be taken to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus, located at 581 S. Grand Ave.

A care and reception center was established at the Norton Younglove Multipurpose Senior Center, located at 908 Park Avenue in Calimesa.

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