Lawsuit filed against waste collector for deadly blaze in Calimesa

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Attorneys representing victims of the Sandalwood Fire in Calimesa announced today they are suing the waste collection company whose driver dumped a burning load in the middle of a Santa Ana windstorm, leading to the roughly 1,000-acre blaze that destroyed a mobile home park and killed two of its residents.
“The Sandalwood Fire devastated the Calimesa community,” said attorney Josh Swigart, who along with lawyers from the firm Spreter & Petiprin are spearheading the civil action filed Tuesday in Riverside County Superior Court against Stanton-based CR&R.
“On behalf of our clients and other survivors, we are committed to obtaining maximum recovery for them and holding CR&R responsible,” he said. “This includes changing their business practices to ensure they prioritize human life over a garbage truck. Companies such as CR&R must never again put their garbage trucks above human lives.”
CR&R, one of four waste haulers under contract with the county, did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the suit.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys allege the actions by the trash truck driver led directly to the fire that swept through the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park at Sandalwood Drive and Seventh Street about 2 p.m. on Oct. 10.
Investigators said the driver released his load after a fire erupted inside the scoop.
Hannah Labelle, 61, and Lois Arvikson, 89, died when flames consumed their doublewide trailers as winds blew in excess of 40 mph.
A total 75 mobile homes and other structures were consumed by the fire, which altogether blackened 1,011 acres before it was stopped four days later just inside San Bernardino County.
A joint county sheriff’s and fire department investigation is ongoing.
Local and state emergency declarations were issued for the county on Oct. 11, immediately after or during the Sandalwood, Reche Canyon, Wolf and Eagle fires, but only the Sandalwood blaze resulted in deaths and injuries.