UPDATED AT 1:51 p.m. FEB. 19: A fire that left one dead and destroyed structures on a Wildomar property Monday night is still under investigation by officials today, but the property was littered with debris and previously cited by city officials, it has been learned.
The Riverside County Coroner’s Office has yet to identify the remains of a male found in a burned out trailer on the site in the 19900 block of Grand Avenue, but property owner Jeffrey Haneline said he believes the deceased is the individual he hired to demo an uninhabitable structure located there.
Haneline said he gave permission to the man and his female companion to stay on the property during the demolition process. With the exception of one neighbor who was asked by Haneline to keep an eye on the Grand Avenue parcel, no others were allowed on the property, Haneline said.
“It’s been a tough year,” he explained, noting that Wildomar code enforcement has cited the property on several occasions, but said he was in the process of cleaning up the place. Among the violations Haneline said he received were notices of an uninhabitable structure, electrical that was not up to code, and excessive storage.
It’s not immediately clear which structure the deceased was found in. The man’s female companion suffered minor burns in the blaze.
“I don’t know how the fire could have started. We turned off power to the property,” Haneline said.
Haneline said he does not live at the property, but explained that he purchased it approximately seven years ago as a possible business location. However, the economy bottomed out and he ended up leasing the site, he said.
Neighbor Donnie Strodtman said the property was a health hazard. He contacted Wildomar code enforcement many times and he took pictures of the property (see photos of the alleged property before the fire), he said. Not only was there rubbish everywhere, the police had been called on numerous occasions and people were in and out at all hours, Strodtman said.
“Police have been here so many times I can’t even count,” he said.
But Haneline said he recently evicted the problem tenant.
“It was a year-long process,” he said of the eviction.
Haneline said he was unaware of any problems associated with the couple recently hired to demo the structure, however Strodtman contends rubbish continued to pile up on the property and problems still existed.
Wildomar City Manager Gary Nordquist confirmed that an active code enforcement action was in place on the property, and he said the case has been open since January 2012.
There were no buildings that had been condemned on the property, but the mobile home that burned was not inhabitable and no trespassing notices were posted, Nordquist said.
Meanwhile, the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The property is currently cordoned off with yellow tape that reads, “Restricted Area Keep Out.”