San Diego County retailers hit by wildfires

SAN DIEGO The number of homes lost to wildfires in Southern California climbed past 1,300 by mid-afternoon Tuesday but conditions began to improve as winds died down and firefighters took control of some fires.

By 3 p.m. Pacific Time Tuesday, San Diego County officials began allowing thousands of evacuees back to their homes in cities like Chula Vista and Scripps Ranch but most of the 500,000 residents displaced by the fires still remained in hotels and evacuation centers throughout the county.

In other developments, a long stretch of Interstate 15 outside San Diego was reopened as nearby fires were brought under control. Nevertheless, most residents in nearby communities such as Poway, Rancho Bernardo and Escondido were still under orders not to return to their homes.

Many retailers have ramped up efforts to help dozens of evacuation centers set up across the county in such places as Qualcomm Stadium and the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Supervalu spokeswoman Haley Meyer said Albertsons stores are donating products “to provide support to evacuation centers as well as on-site support.”

Walgreens helped out by donating $60,000 worth of products needed by evacuees. “We’ve donated quite a volume of supplies—mostly masks, drinking water, sun screen and various medical supplies,” said Walgreens spokesperson Carol Hively. “And most of those donations went to people evacuated at Qualcomm Stadium.”

“We’re glad to do all we can to help the people of Southern California who have had to evacuate their homes,” said William Hose, Walgreens vice president of store operations for California, where the company operates 476 drug stores. “Our thoughts and concern go out to those who have suffered losses.”

Local supermarkets and drug stores were cleaned out of such essential products as bottled water and surgical masks (for dense smoke) by Monday night but had managed to restock with extra inventory Tuesday. Supervalu reported two of its Albertsons stores had shut down but the chain reported no damage. It appears few businesses were lost to the fires that were confined primarily to residential areas.

CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis told Drug Store News that its Malibu store sustained minor exterior damage from the fire on Monday but was expected to reopen Tuesday afternoon.

Currently, only seven CVS stores in the San Diego area had to close due to evacuation orders but no damages have been reported. The remaining locations in the market are open and serving customers.

The pharmacy retailer also is working with officials who are running the emergency shelters for evacuees to assess their needs for water, OTCs, etc., and it will be donating products to meet those needs.

It is likely that CVS will make an announcement Wednesday concerning its full response, once the community’s needs have been fully assessed.

Most cities not affected by the fires have set up makeshift camps in places like shopping mall parking lots were people have parked RVs and pitched tents. But even cities not hit by the fires are dealing with the fallout. Smoke has completely covered the sky for most of the day in many areas and emergency workers and evacuees are wearing surgical masks to protect against smoke and ash in the air.

Miraculously, only two deaths have resulted from the fires but dozens of people have been injured. Conditions are expected to improve on Wednesday as firefighters from other parts of the state arrive to help out and the Santa Ana winds that started the fires dissipate.

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