Garbage truck driver charged in deadly Riverside wildfire set to be arraigned

A garbage truck driver, charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of two Calimesa residents, is set to be arraigned next week. 

39-year-old Antonio Ornelas-Velazquez is responsible for sparking a wildfire that spread through a mobile home park in Calimesa, killing two people. 

He is facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of burning an inhabited structure; he is set to be arraigned on Tuesday, August 31. 

The Sandalwood Fire, which broke out October 2019, burned over 1,011 acres. Over 500 homes were evacuated and 90 structures were damaged or destroyed. 

Investigators say Ornelas-Velazquez was driving a trash truck for a waste and recycling company in the area of 7th Street, just north of Sandalwood Drive, when he noticed smoke coming from his truck. 

PERVIOUS COVERAGE: Two confirmed dead after wildfire rips through Calimesa mobile home park

Lawsuit filed after trash truck sparked deadly Sandalwood Fire in Calimesa

Ornelas-Velazquez pulled onto a dirt shoulder near an area of open brush to examine the truck. 

According to CAL FIRE investigators, two passing motorists stopped to warn him about not dumping the compacted load due to fire danger. However, Ornelas-Velazquez continued on and a fire quickly sparked. 

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.

Due to dry, hot and windy conditions, the fire spread into the nearby mobile home park. 

In total, 72 homes were destroyed. Two residents were killed… 89-year-old Lois Arvikson and 61-year-old James Owen McGee.

In November 2019, a lawsuit was filed against the waste company, alleging CR&R Inc. placed business interests ahead of public safety.

Tune in to FOX 11 Los Angeles for the latest Southern California news.