Northern California

Second Victim Found in Mobile Home Park Devastated by Sandalwood Fire

The Riverside County fire started Thursday after a trash truck dumped its burning load

Additional human remains were found inside a residence destroyed by a wildfire that swept through a mobile home park in Riverside County.

The remains were found Friday evening as authorities searched the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park in Calimesa.  A brush fire sparked by a trash truck near the 10 Freeway Thursday destroyed 76 mobile homes and blackened more than 800 acres.

In a statement Saturday, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said authorities have not identified the remains.

Another victim was identified as 89-year-old Lois Arvikson, whose remains also were found in the mobile home park. Arvikson's son told reporters that his mother, who lived alone, was on the phone with him, preparing to leave in her car, when the line went dead.

"This was a very rapidly moving fire," Riverside County Fire Department Division Chief Todd Hopkins said during a Friday news briefing in Beaumont. "It started when a trash truck caught fire, and the burning trash was jettisoned out the back of the vehicle."

Flames from the burning trash ignited dry grass and spread into the RV park, he said.

"We're trying to determine whether there's criminal culpability," Sheriff Chad BBianco said. "We're investigating to see if we need any type of criminal charges, and we are still in the process of identifying everybody who should have been or lived in the mobile home park."

County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, who previously served as the city's mayor, called it "a very, very difficult day for Riverside County and Calimesa."

"This fire has caused extensive damage to the community, and we have lost life," he said. "My heart goes out to the community, and our thoughts are especially with the grieving relatives."

Hewitt said the county Emergency Management Department has issued an emergency proclamation, which the Board of Supervisors is slated to ratify during a special session next Thursday morning to enable the county to apply for immediate state and federal aid.

A half dozen Cal Fire air tankers and several water-dropping helicopters were summoned Thursday afternoon to make runs on the fire, which expanded into San Bernardino County by 3 p.m. The air support was back in action this morning.

The blaze was one of several that broke out amid high winds and dry conditions that prompted California utilities to preemptively cut power to more than 2 million people in high-danger areas to guard against power lines sparking fires.

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