Residents of the Calimesa Mobile Home Park were recovering Tuesday, one day after firefighters reached full containment of a brush fire that killed two people, destroyed 76 mobile homes and charred 1,011 acres.
The so-called Sandalwood Fire broke out just before 2 p.m. Thursday. Riverside County Fire Department officials announced at 5:35 p.m. Monday that it had been fully contained.
The blaze started when the driver of a trash truck dumped his burning load, igniting nearby dry grass, at Sandalwood Drive and Seventh Street, near an Interstate 10 exit ramp.
The property owner for the mobile home park was allowing residents to enter the property Monday and access their homes while sheriff’s deputies remained in the area to respond to any law enforcement calls for service.
The Calimesa Fire Department took over command of the blaze Monday. The department had been in joint command with the RCFD, Cal Fire-San Bernardino County and the Yucaipa Fire Department.
Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted at 1 p.m. Saturday for the area north of the mobile home park. Authorities said residents returning home should use County Line Road as Seventh Street was shut down between Sandalwood Drive and County Line Road.
“That road closure will be in place for quite some time because of the investigation,” Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said, adding that deputies were providing security around evacuated properties to prevent looting.
Lois Arvickson, 89, was the first person found dead as a result of the fire. She lived in the mobile home park, her son told reporters, and was on the phone with him, preparing to get in her car and leave when the line suddenly cut out.
The body of a second victim was found Friday evening during a search through a burned mobile home. The coroner’s office was working to identify that victim, whose age and gender were not immediately known, according to Riverside County sheriff’s officials.
“We’re trying to determine whether there’s criminal culpability,” Bianco said. “We’re investigating to see if we need any type of criminal charges.”
County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, a former Calimesa mayor, said the county Emergency Management Department issued an emergency proclamation, which the Board of Supervisors is slated to ratify during a special session Thursday morning to enable the county to apply for immediate state and federal aid.
The temporary shelter set up by the American Red Cross for displaced residents at Mesa Grande Academy closed Sunday, but caseworkers will continue to work with those affected by the fire as they begin the recovery process, the nonprofit said.
Fire victims who would like to speak to a caseworker can call 951-571-8681.
Bianco advised anyone who has information about the fire, or who is from the area and may have other concerns, to call 951-776-1099 and use option No. 5.
The Red Cross requested donations to its Disaster Relief fund to help those impacted. Donations can be made at www.redcross.org, or 800-733-2767.
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