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San Diego County retailers hit by wildfires


SAN DIEGO Wind-driven wildfires have displaced more than 500,000 residents in San Diego County, burned more than 1,000 homes and have retailers scrambling to meet increased demand for essential products.

As of noon Tuesday, more than a half-dozen fires continued to burn primarily in inland areas north of San Diego. Some areas of Los Angeles have also been hit, including the coastal city of Malibu where the first fires broke out on Sunday.

A 25-mile stretch of Interstate 15, which runs north to south through San Diego suburbs like Escondido, Poway and Rancho Bernardo, also remained shut down Tuesday more than 24 hours after it was first closed. All three cities were forced to evacuate most or all of their residents Monday night as fires fueled by 50 mile-an-hour winds raced down hillsides into residential areas.

Local supermarkets and drug stores were cleaned out of essential products like bottled water and surgical masks (for dense smoke) by Monday night but had managed to re-stock with extra inventory by Tuesday morning. Supervalu reported two of its Albertson’s stores were shut down Tuesday but the chain reported no damage.

A Costco official said many of its employees were among the hundreds of thousands forced out their homes into temporary shelters set up in cities along the coast. Costco reported no damage to any stores but had to reduce hours at some outlets due to highway closings, worker shortages and the approach of some fires.

The largest role retailers are playing now is providing provisions for the dozens of evacuee centers set up across the county in places like Qualcomm Stadium and the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Supervalu spokeswoman Haley Meyer said Albertson’s stores are donating products “to provide support to evacuation centers as well as on-site support.”

Even by noon on Tuesday, most retailers were still not able to determine how many of their stores had been closed by the fires as events continue to change by the hour as new blazes flare up.

“We had to close some stores for a few hours on Monday but most have re-opened,” said Longs Drug director of investor relations Phyllis Proffer. “It’s hard to get a clear picture right now because things are changing and we’re still in reaction mode.”

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