Trash Truck Driver Arrested in Deadly 2019 Sandalwood Fire at Mobile Home Park

A burning load of trash was dumped near a freeway ramp, then flames fanned by powerful winds quickly spread to the mobile home park in October 2019.

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What to Know

  • Two people were killed in the October 2019 Sandalwood Fire in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
  • The fire started when a burning load was dumped from a trash truck into dry brush.
  • The truck's 38-year-old driver was arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.

A 38-year-old man accused of dumping a burning load of trash from a garbage truck, leading to the 2019 Sandalwood Fire in Riverside County, has been arrested in connection with the deadly blaze.

Antonio Ornelas-Velazquez is accused of operating the garbage truck that dumped burning trash near a pile of dry vegetation during a powerful windstorm. Gusts of up to about 45 mph fanned the flames, leading to a fire that burned more than 1,000 acres and killed two residents of a nearby mobile home park in Calimesa.

Ornelas-Velazquez was taken into custody by Cal Fire Riverside Peace Officers Saturday afternoon. He was booked into jail on suspicion of unlawfully causing a fire that causes great bodily injury and two counts of involuntary manslaughter, Cal Fire Riverside officials said Monday.

It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.

The blaze broke out about 2 p.m. Oct. 10 at Sandalwood Drive and Seventh Street, near the 10 Freeway exit ramp. Investigators have said the driver of the trash truck released the load after a fire erupted inside the scoop.

Hannah Labelle, 61, and Lois Arvikson, 89, died when flames consumed their doublewide trailers at Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, which was destroyed.

Seventy-two buildings were destroyed and 16 were damaged. The fire and burned more than 1,000 acres of vegetation before it was contained on Oct. 14, 2019.

The blaze blackened 1,011 acres total before it was stopped just inside San Bernardino County four days later.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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