Wildfires slow in San Diego

SAN DIEGO A change in the weather is helping firefighters contain a dozen blazes still burning in Southern California that have destroyed more than 1,500 homes and displaced close to 1 million residents, prompting retailers to step up relief efforts.

Walgreens donated $60,000 worth of essential items on Tuesday that were shipped to Qualcomm Stadium, near downtown San Diego, where 10,000 evacuees have taken up residence. The retailer donated water, sunscreen, diapers and dust masks for residents who are waiting to return home.

“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.

Rite Aid Tuesday evening announced that its charity arm, the Rite Aid Foundation, was making a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help the victims, families and communities affected by the wildfire devastation in San Diego County. CVS chipped in as well, donating more than $300,000 in supplies, and had established an emergency prescription delivery service. “We are deeply concerned about the impact these fires have had on our customers and employees and we are pleased to aid ongoing relief efforts with these donations,” stated Ronald Day, CVS’ area vice president of California. “We will continue to stay in touch with relief officials and provide any additional assistance that is needed.”

Other retailers have ramped up efforts to help dozens of evacuation centers set up across the county in places like Qualcomm and the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores issued a release commending its member companies. “Their response includes continuing pharmacy operations, but also the contributions of financial resources, products and services to the people in the evacuated areas. Their humanitarian efforts are consistent with their day-to-day commitment to patient and customer care, as well as with their swift and vital responses to prior tragedies, including Hurricane Katrina,” president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson stated.

Safeway spokeswoman Teena Massingill said the company has been shipping products to local relief agencies to help displaced residents. “We’re working with the San Diego Food Bank and sending them products they need to help firefighters and people in temporary shelters,” said Massingill.

Supervalu spokeswoman Haley Meyer said Albertsons stores have been doing the same and donating products “to provide support to evacuation centers as well as on-site support.” Those evacuation centers are slowing starting to empty as the fires are put out and residents return to their homes.

Surprisingly, retailers have been able to conduct business as usual despite the mass evacuations. Walgreens reported that none of its stores were closed and others like Costco reported having to just shut down one store for just a few hours. Supervalu said that it had to close two Albertsons stores during the height of the fires Tuesday and Safeway reported that a “handful of stores” were forced to close but that most are now open.

But residents may be dealing with another problem later in the week. Shifting winds are expected to blow much of the smoke and ash carried out over the Pacific Ocean on Monday and Tuesday back onshore. Emergency rooms across the county are already dealing with a growing number of patients reporting respiratory problems from smoke that’s been as thick as fog in some areas.

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