CALIMESA (CNS) - A brush fire possibly sparked by a malfunctioning trash truck broke out today near Interstate 10 in Calimesa, destroying mobile homes, injuring an unknown number of people and charring about 500 acres as it spread to neighboring San Bernardino County.
The blaze was reported at 1:58 p.m. at Sandalwood Drive and Seventh Street, near the Interstate 10 exit ramp, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.
A fire department captain said the fire originated in a trash truck, and when the driver pulled over and dumped the burning load, flames ignited dry grass and spread into the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park. At least five residences were initially destroyed, but within hours, dozens of mobile homes had been consumed by the blaze.
Around 3:50 p.m., the fire department announced the flames were threatening rail and power lines.
As of 8 p.m., the fire was 10% contained and a total of 74 structures were destroyed while five received moderate damage and 11 sustained minor damage, the fire department reported.
Mandatory evacuations were in effect south of Seventh Street and east of County Line Road, as well as for nearby Mesa View Middle School, whose students were taken by bus to Calimesa Elementary School in Yucaipa.
A care and reception center that had been opened at the Calimesa Senior Center was closed at 7:30 p.m. and a shelter was opened at Mesa Grande Academy, 975 Fremont St. in Calimesa. Transportation was being provided to transfer evacuees from the senior center to Mesa Grande Academy, authorities said.
Large and small animals were being accepted at the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus, located at 581 S. Grand Ave. in San Jacinto. Anyone needing help evacuating pets was urged to call 951-358-7387.
It was unclear how many of the destroyed or damaged homes were occupied. The number and types of injuries at the location also could not be confirmed, but a fire department spokeswoman said there were no reports of injuries to firefighters.
At least one search dog was called to the mobile home park, according to reports from the scene.
Six Cal Fire air tankers and several water-dropping helicopters were summoned to make runs on the fire, which expanded into San Bernardino County, approaching Redlands, shortly before 3 p.m.
Crews from the San Bernardino County and Redlands fire departments joined Riverside County under a unified command.
About 120 firefighters were assigned to the blaze Thursday night.