A county order that closed the Calimesa mobile home park devastated by the Sandalwood fire was lifted Thursday, allowing residents more access to the site, but only to retrieve items or arrange clean-up, authorities said.

The area, covered with ash and debris, is too hazardous to resume living there, health officials said.

The Oct. 10 fire claimed two lives and destroyed 76 mobile homes. About 500 people were evacuated. The fire charred 1,011 acres and was contained Monday evening.

Authorities said the blaze started after the operator of a trash truck dumped its burning load of garbage at near the 10 Freeway, and the resulting fire pushed by Santa Ana winds was in the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park within minutes.

People still cannot live or camp in the mobile home park, even if their residences escaped damage, the Riverside County Department of Public Health said Thursday. It is “highly likely” that asbestos, toxic heavy materials and other toxic compounds are in the ashes, the department said.

The order could be reinstated if weather conditions change. Calimesa had 2 mph winds Thursday morning and humidity was 49 %, with temperatures expected to reach the mid-70s.

“Please remain in the area only for the minimum amount of time necessary to arrange safe cleanup or retrieve personal property,” the agency’s notice said. Only “residents, management and visitors directly involved in cleanup should be present,” it said.

The closure order was imposed Monday, although residents were allowed a brief window of time that day to visit the site of their homes and retrieve items. The Thursday statement said children, the elderly, pregnant women or people with heart or lung disease should stay out, along with pets.

Still in effect Thursday was a safe debris disposal order issued on Monday by the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health. It requires residents and visitors to leave untouched anything regarded as “fire debris,” and not do cleanup until permits are obtained.

A Local Assistance Center for those affected by the Sandalwood fire is open daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Calimesa Senior Center, 908 Park Ave. in Calimesa, with  local, state and federal agencies, utility company representatives and other social services available. Officials have said the center will remain open as long as there is a need. For more information, 909 -795-2287.



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