Trash truck’s burning load sparked a deadly wildfire, and now a lawsuit

The Sandlewood fire killed two women at the Calimesa Mobile Home Park
The Sandlewood killed two women at the Calimesa Mobile Home Park and destroyed almost the entire neighborhood.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

After a deadly wildfire ripped through their community earlier this month, a Calimesa homeowner is suing a waste company whose truck dumped a load of burning trash on the side of the road that sparked the Sandalwood fire.

In a lawsuit filed this week, Bruce Maxwell, a resident at the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park alleges that CR&R Inc. put its own business interests ahead of public safety when one of its truck drivers dumped his load after it caught fire on Oct. 10.

According to the suit, a passerby pleaded with the driver not to unload the smoldering trash because of strong winds that could easily spread a fire. The blaze ultimately burned more than 1,000 acres, destroying at least 76 homes and killing two women who lived in the park.

Lois Arvickson, 89, of Calimesa died in the Sandalwood fire.
(Kimberly Turner)

The fire killed 89-year-old Lois Arvickson and 61-year-old Hannah Labelle inside their mobile homes, according to Riverside County coroner’s officials. At the time, fire warnings were in place in Calimesa and throughout the county due to dry, windy conditions.

Neither Maxwell nor CR&R could immediately be reached for comment Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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