Southern California

Great Grandmother Dies in Calimesa Fire

What to Know

  • The Sandalwood Fire began Thursday afternoon after a trash truck dumped a load on fire into brush, Cal Fire said.
  • More than 70 mobile homes burned.
  • The family of Lois Arvickson said she hasn't contacted them, and they haven't found her at a shelter.

An 89-year-old mother of four adult children who has dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren died after a fire erupted in a bed of dry brush near her mobile home park, consuming 76 structures and forcing Riverside County residents to flee.

Family members say Lois Arvickson loved her home in Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, but the day before at around 2 in the afternoon, Cal Fire officials say a trash truck caught on fire.

The driver dumped the burning debris on the side of Seventh Street, officials said. The embers ignited the fast-moving Sandalwood Fire, fueled by strong Santa Ana winds.

A family member called to check on the great grandmother to see if she was OK, and Arvickson said a fire was coming.

Then the line went dead.

"She loved where she lived. She loved overlooking that canyon, and that beautiful view that she had," her daughter Judy Dorius said, as she and another family member wiped back tears. "She cherished that every day. She sat there and drank her coffee, every morning."

Family members said they checked all the shelters to see if they could find her. 

Riverside County Sheriff's investigators had the grim task of searching the mobile home park for any human remains. One person had already been confirmed dead early Friday, but no details had been released. 

There are two other people unaccounted for, according to authorities.

Authorities said in a news conference that it wasn't clear whether the truck driver or anyone would face criminal charges in the blaze until they could complete an investigation.

By late Friday, the blaze had swept through more than 800 acres, and damaged 90 structures, while 76 were destroyed. 

As the Sandalwood Fire reached 10% containment, other wildfires continued to burn in the Southern California region.

The Saddleridge Fire in the Porter Ranch area consumed some 5,700 acres, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. A man went into cardiac arrest near that blaze, and died, but authorities did not release details on exactly what happened. 

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