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Man begged garbage truck driver not to dump burning trash before Sandalwood Fire sparked

New video shows the seconds leading up to the ignition of the Sandalwood Fire, sparked by a garbage truck driver who dumped a burning pile of trash on the side of a road Thursday.

Shawn Melvin and his son were behind the smoking truck and began filming before they saw it pull off the road. Given the gusty winds and bone dry conditions, Melvin was aware of the fire danger and said he tried to warn the driver.

“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 said.

He said he was met with a blank stare.

“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,'” Melvin said.

The fire quickly exploded, growing to more than 800 acres and destroying dozens of homes. It has claimed the life of an 89-year-old great-great-grandmother Lois Arvickson, and two others are unaccounted for.

Arvickson’s family is left searching for answers. They said she was last heard from as she tried to escape as Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park was overtaken by fire.

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

They watched as home after home turned to ash, and are now fearing the worst.

“The car is still in the garage, from what we saw in the aerial shots,” said Judy Dorius, Arvickson’s daughter. “We could actually see her car and I don’t know how she would have gotten out.”

Their family is waiting for confirmation from authorities about their loved one. But they know there’s little left behind.

“Everything is gone,” Dorius said. “I mean, all the history, all the pages, books, pictures… Obviously gone.”

Arvickson leaves behind 4 children, 12 grandchildren, 35 great-grandchildren and 7 great-great-grand children.

You can reach Jake on Twitter, Facebook or email him at jake.ingrassia@kesq.com.

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