Sandalwood Fire: At least 2 dead as containment grows to 25% in 823 acre-blaze that destroyed Calimesa community


The spot where a garbage truck dumped a burning load, sparking the Sandalwood Fire that destroyed several residences in Calimesa on Oct. 10, 2019. (Credit: KTLA)

CALIMESA, Calif. (KTLA) — Another body was found inside a burned Calimesa mobile home as firefighters battled the more than 800-acre Sandalwood Fire, bringing the death toll up to two people, authorities said Saturday.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said the unidentified body was found when officers were trying to evacuate the homes.

Firefighters raised containment of the fatal blaze up to 25% Saturday morning, battling the fire that destroyed dozens of residences in Calimesa, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The fire held at 823 acres, or about 1.28 square miles, overnight.

Authorities said the blaze was ignited when a garbage truck driver dumped burning trash in the area of Calimesa Boulevard and Sandalwood Drive at around 2 p.m. Thursday, and the flames spread to nearby vegetation and into the Calimesa Mobile Home Park, where an 89-year-old woman was found dead in her home. Authorities identified her as Lois Arvickson.

Two people were still unaccounted for Friday.

A total of 74 structures were destroyed in the fire, five were moderately damaged and 11 sustained minor damage, according to fire officials.

More than 500 homes were evacuated Thursday, but residents were allowed to return by Friday night.

The cause of death for both victims is still under investigation and no additional information was available.

Community members can call the Sandalwood Fire hotline at 951-940-6985 for updated information. To report people who are missing or unaccounted for in the fire, call the sheriff’s dispatch non-emergency line at 951-776-1099.

Other fires in Riverside County

While firefighters battled the Sandalwood Fire, two other blazes were almost completely contained in Riverside County.

The Wolf Fire, burning in South Highland Springs, about 17 miles southeast of Calimesa, was about 90% contained at 75 acres Saturday morning, Cal Fire Riverside said.

The Reche Fire, which was reported in the area of Reche Canyon Road and Reche Vista the same day, was 85% contained Saturday and remained at 350 acres overnight.

All blazes erupted on Thursday as powerful Santa Ana winds swept through Southern California, fanning several wildfires.

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