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Driver Attempts To Stop Burning Trash Truck From Driving Through Calimesa Prior To Deadly Sandalwood Fire

CALIMESA (CBSLA) — A man who was driving behind a burning trash truck, alleged to have caused the Sandalwood Fire that left one person dead and dozens of homes destroyed, said he attempted to get the truck driver's attention to avoid dry brush from igniting.

Shawn Melvin's 8-year-old son filmed a video of the trash truck appearing to be on fire as they followed behind in their vehicle, attempting to get the driver's attention.

Calimesa Brush Fire burns homes during wind event
(credit: RMG News)

Melvin told CBSLA's Michele Gile that he was able to get the driver to pull over and told him to get out of the area due to the dry brush. He explained to the driver that the engine was not smoking, but rather, the load he was hauling.

"I pulled up to him and said, "'You can not stay here. With the wind, and the field right there, you're going to catch everything on fire'" Melvin said. "He kind of looked me like "'What do you want me to do?'"

"That's when I preceded to tell him, "'Go anywhere else but here. Go on the overpass, go anywhere else but here, because you're going to catch this place on fire'"

The video shot by Melvin's son, as well as video of the truck captured by a Ring doorbell, will most likely play heavily into the investigation into what started the Sandalwood fire destroyed more than 70 mobile homes and killed one person.

"It was a big company...going through protocol...that told him to dump it," Melvin said. "He was following the rules because they didn't want a $150,000 vehicle to burn down, but then they killed somebody."

Authorities confirmed Thursday that one person had died in the fire, but would not immediately identify the person.

Residents of the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park say they believe an 89-year-old woman who went missing during the evacuation was the victim.

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