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San Diego retailers rally to help fire-ravaged areas


SAN DIEGO —The devastating wildfires that killed seven people, destroyed nearly 2,000 homes and charred 500,000 acres in Southern California last month are over, but some retailers are still helping homeowners clean up and prepare for another outbreak this fall.

The potential for more fires is a concern, particularly in San Diego, which has received less than three inches of rain during the past year, compared to an annual average of 10 inches. And with more dry, windy weather expected this month, retailers like Lowe’s and The Home Depot are keeping that top of mind with customers.

Lowe’s has rolling carts at store entrances stocked with emergency response products like fire extinguishers, dust masks, respirators and flashlights. It also has a larger than usual supply of those products in store aisles.

Home Depot has special display areas designed for people cleaning up after the fires and others who want to be prepared for the worst. One section at the front of stores is loaded with contractor trash bags, rakes, brooms and other materials for cleaning up soot, ash and debris. Directly across from that display is another stocked with lamps, flashlights and batteries.

All told, retailers were lucky to emerge from the fire storms unscathed. While a few like Costco, Safeway and Target had to close stores for a few days in the worst hit areas, none reported any major damage. But most reported having employees left homeless by the fires. With that in mind, nearly every major retailer in the country has donated money and supplies to local organizations helping victims rebuild their lives. Wal-Mart pitched in with a $1 million donation to the American Red Cross to help with disaster relief. “Wal-Mart is committed to supporting and assisting our communities, particularly in these times,” said Wal-Mart Foundation president Margaret McKenna.

Target, which was forced to close five stores during the fires, donated $1 million to groups like the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. Safeway donated 16 truckloads of supplies worth $250,000 during the fires and an additional $500,000 in the aftermath. Kroger-owned Ralph’s and Food 4 Less pitched in with $350,000 for relief efforts, and Albertsons’ parent company Supervalu pledged $100,000 to the Red Cross.

And during the fires, Costco and Target donated prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications for a temporary pharmacy at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, which was home to 10,000 evacuees at the height of the fires.

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