Death Toll Rises in Sandalwood Fire in Calimesa

Death Toll Rises in Sandalwood Fire in Calimesa

Kitty Alvarado Connect

The Sandalwood Fire in Calimesa has claimed a second life. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department says additional remains were found at the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park. They have not been identified. They did confirm the first victim killed in the fire was 89-year-old Lois Arvickson. Her family has been outside the park everyday since the fire. They say getting confirmation gives them closure but the pain is unbearable. She is survived by 4 children, 12 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren and 7 great, great grandchildren.

“She loved life and she wanted to be around for a long time she was looking forward to celebrating her ninetieth birthday in July having all of her grandkids put it on for her, she was a wonderful woman,” says Kim Turner, her daughter-in-law.

The fire started on Thursday afternoon, on Saturday morning residents were still not allowed in because it’s an active crime scene, car after car was turned away by deputies.

Michelle Hamilton showed up with her little girls to see if she could get in. She says her home is still standing but she’s heartbroken over those who aren’t so lucky.

I feel devastated, I mean I‘m blessed I‘m able to go and get my belonging some of them but my best friend lost her home, it was one house over from me, so,” she says trying to hold back tears.

The fire was sparked when a garbage truck driver dumped a load of burning trash near the dry brush, the fire raced uphill destroying 76 of the mobile homes, about 3/4 of this community.

She says she does feel sorry for the driver but hasn’t come to terms with it herself, “Oh, man, I can’t.” 

She says the only thing keeping them standing is the kindness from this community, Strangers have provided them with clothes and a woman showed up to the scene with meals for anyone who needed them.

“I have an awesome community the people are amazing here,” says Hamilton