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Man begged driver of smoldering garbage truck not to dump burning trash that sparked LA wildfire

New video shows the crucial last moments leading up to the ignition of the fatal Sandalwood wildfire, which were sparked when a garbage truck driver dumped a pile of burning trash on the side of a road on Thursday afternoon.

Captured by Shawn Melvin, the footage shows a CR&R garbage truck with smoke billowing from its rig in Calimesa, which authorities have now identified as the cause of the blaze that went on to destroy more than seventy homes and kill at least two people.

Under dry, humid and windy conditions, Melvin says he immediately recognized the impending danger and tried to warn the driver to dispose of the burning trash elsewhere.

‘I was pleading with him, “Don’t stop here. If you already have fire, it’s going to catch. Even pull onto the overpass on the 10 freeway. Anywhere but here,’” Melvin recalled telling him, to ABC7.

The footage shows a CR&R garbage truck smoking from its rig in Calimesa, which authorities have now identified as the cause of the blaze, which destroyed more than seventy homes and has left at least two people dead

Sheriff's tape surrounds a smoldering pile of garbage discarded by the CR&R driver on 7th Street as firefighters battle the Sandalwood Fire

‘He honestly said I don't know what to do, and him trying to follow protocol by dumping the trash that was on fire, he was trying to save a $150,000 rig and ended up that protocol bit him in the butt, because you don't do that on a windy day,’ he continued.

Within minutes, the fire quickly erupted, growing to more than 800 acres in size and roaring through the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, vanquishing 76 homes and killing 89-year-old great-great-grandmother Lois Arvickson, and one other resident who hasn't yet been publicly named.

Family members of Lois Arvickson are demanding answers. They last spoke to Lois on the phone as she was trying to escape the blaze but lost contact when the line went dead.

‘My husband was on the phone with her and her phone went dead,’ Kim Turner, Arvickson's daughter-in-law told KESQ. ‘She was telling him about the smoke and everything and that's when we lost contact yesterday.’

Shawn Melvin (above) said: ‘I was pleading with him, “Don’t stop here. If you already have fire, it’s going to catch. Even pull onto the overpass on the 10 freeway. Anywhere but here."'

Within minutes, the fire quickly erupted, growing to more than 800 acres in size and roaring through the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park, vanquishing 76 homes and killing 89-year-old great-great-grandmother Lois Arvickson, and one other resident who hasn't yet been publicly named

Investigators now say they’re working to determine whether the CR&R driver acted unlawfully when he discarded the trash.

They’re also said to be looking into whether any residents put something illegal in the trash that may have set the garbage ablaze. 

It's not yet clear what criminal charges the driver - or other members of the garbage crew - could face, if any, though authorities say it isn't unusual for garbage hauled by trucks to catch fire, or for crews to dump the burning trash.

‘The fire resulted in death. So that’s why right now it’s kind of like a death investigation to see if it will result in criminal charges,’ Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said at a Friday news conference. ‘We don’t know that yet and we won’t know that for quite some time.’ 

The Riverside County Sheriff's Office has not yet responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment.

On Saturday evening, authorities said the Sandalwood Fire was 25 percent contained, up from 10 percent on Friday.

Two other wildfire have also been burning in Riverside County since Thursday.

Investigators now say they’re working to determine whether the CR&R driver acted unlawfully when he discarded the trash, actions which could constitute illegal dumping (Pictured: firefighters battle Sandalwood fire as it ravishes through the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park)

On Saturday, authorities said the Sandalwood Fire was 25 percent contained, up from 10 percent on Friday

As of Saturday evening, 70 miles east of Sandalwood in Saddleridge, 1,000 firefighters were battling another deadly and fast-moving fire in the San Fernando Valley area of greater Los Angeles.

The Saddleridge fire broke out on Thursday night and raced through the area's dry foothills and brush-filled canyons to cover some 7,552 acres by midday on Saturday.

Gusting winds fueled the fire at a rate of 800 acres per hour, which showed no signs of abating Saturday, forcing the evacuation of some 100,000 people as the flames kept burning out of control.

The Los Angeles Fire Department said the fire was 19 percent contained after ‘aggressive’ overnight air operations in support of ground crews, up from 13 percent a day earlier.

As of Saturday evening, 70 miles east of Sandalwood in Saddleridge, 1,000 firefighters were battling another deadly and fast-moving fire in the San Fernando Valley area of greater Los Angeles

The Saddleridge fire broke out on Thursday night and raced through the area's dry foothills and brush-filled canyons to cover some 7,552 acres by midday on Saturday 

The Los Angeles Fire Department said the fire was 19 percent contained after ‘aggressive’ overnight air operations in support of ground crews, up from 13 percent a day earlier

All mandatory evacuation orders were lifted over the course of the day, Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

‘My heart goes out to those who have been impacted,’ Garcetti said in a statement. ‘I am deeply grateful to the firefighters and first responders ... These brave women and men saved lives - and if not for their quick action, we know the destruction would have been much worse.’

At least one death has been attributed to the Saddleridge fire, a man who authorities said suffered a heart attack while trying to fight encroaching flames on his property rather than heeding evacuation orders.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries, the LAFD said, and 31 structures have been either damaged or destroyed.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

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