Garbage Truck Driver Charged in Deadly CA Fire

Two fire apparatus

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors have charged a garbage truck driver suspected of dumping burning trash that sparked a 2019 brush fire that killed two people and destroyed dozens of homes in Southern California. 

Antonio Ornelas-Velazquez, 38, faces charges including involuntary manslaughter and unlawfully causing a fire resulting in great bodily injury, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.

The Calimesa resident was arrested Saturday and released the following day after posting $75,000 bond, according to jail records. Ornelas-Velazquez could not be reached for comment Tuesday and it wasn’t immediately known if he has an attorney.

The fast-moving Sandalwood Fire “was caused by a burning load of trash that was dumped next to dry vegetation by the trash truck that Ornelas-Velazquez was operating” on Oct. 10, 2019, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a news release Monday.

Two women who lived in the Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park were killed when flames roared through the area east of Los Angeles. The fire charred more than 1.5 square miles (3.8 square kilometers) of dry brush in Riverside County over four days before it was contained. More than 70 structures were destroyed.

Ornelas-Velazquez was ordered to appear in court on June 15, the DA’s office said. 

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