(CALIMESA, Calif.) — Burning trash dumped along a road sparked a wildfire Thursday that high winds quickly pushed across a field of dry grass and into a Southern California mobile home park, destroying dozens of residences.
Riverside County fire officials said authorities responded to “numerous” medical emergencies at the park. Several residents were transported to hospitals but there were no details on their conditions, Riverside County Fire Department Capt. Fernando Herrera said.
Fire danger is high throughout California after the typically dry summer and early fall. The high temperatures and winds predicted for inland areas of Southern California materialized mid-afternoon Thursday, when the driver of a commercial trash truck dumped the load to prevent the vehicle from catching fire.
Dry grass quickly ignited and winds gusting to 50 mph (80 kph) blew the fire into the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of downtown Los Angeles. The park has 110 home sites and was built in 1958, according to its website. TV helicopter video showed a large portion of the structures were total losses.
About 160 students sheltered in place as smoke enveloped nearby Mesa View Middle School before buses arrived and evacuated them to another school outside the fire zone.
Maryanne Fiske was part of a crowd in a restaurant parking lot awaiting word on whether their relatives at Villa Calimesa were safe.
“There was another lady over here who was really upset, who could see her mobile home on fire,” Fiske told KABC-TV.
Fire officials were investigating what caused the trash in the truck to catch fire.
The blaze, dubbed the Sandalwood Fire, was one of several that broke out amid high winds and dry conditions that prompted California utilities to preemptively cut power to more than 2 million people in high-danger areas to guard against power lines sparking fires. The area that includes the mobile home park still had its power when the fire occurred.
To the west of Calimesa, firefighters contained a blaze that damaged two homes near Fontana. It was not immediately clear whether the power outage included the location where the fire broke out.
In Northern California, a brush fire broke out Thursday morning in the San Bruno Mountains south of San Francisco, prompting voluntary evacuations. No homes burned and firefighters made quick progress.