Wildfires Scour Southern California, Keeping Businesses On Edge


The series of wildfires sweeping Southern California are impacting the IT industry in the San Diego area, with several companies closing down as the fires threaten their offices and employees' homes.

Dozens of those fires, which are raging from northern Los Angeles County and Malibu Beach through Orange County and down to San Diego County, were caused by a long-term dry spell and, in some cases, downed power lines or destroyed power transformers.

They are reminiscent of the fires almost exactly four years ago which scoured Southern California . At least 250,000 people in the San Diego area alone have been forced to evacuate.

The fires are being pushed by the Santa Ana winds, so-called because of the hot wind that every Fall blows from the desert through the Santa Ana mountains to the coast of Southern California. Those winds have been blowing for a couple of days at gusts of up to 80 miles per hour, and are expected to keep blowing for the next two days.

Rich Baldwin, president of Nth Generation, a San Diego-based solution provider, said the whole area around his office and home in northern San Diego County has been evacuated.

Nth's office is closed, but as of Monday afternoon had not been caught by the flames. However, said Baldwin, the flames were within a mile of both the office and his home, and both are threatened, depending on how the fast-changing winds blow.

Several of Nth's employees have been evacuated, Baldwin said. A few saw homes burning just five or six houses away from their own, he said. "It's amazing how quick this came," he said. "I had some of my people wake up at 5:00 am and being told they gotta go."

Next: Save The Tapes

Nth employees made a quick stop at the office Monday morning to grab all the backup tapes, Baldwin said.

"We shut everything down," he said. "We figured we'd lose power. And if we do, we also lose the air conditioning, and things heat up pretty quickly. So we took the safe approach and took the tapes. The equipment can be replaced."

Overland Storage, a San Diego-based storage vendor, has not closed today, a company spokesperson said. However, the fire has caused the evacuation of several employees' homes in northern San Diego County, a few of which had not yet reported in.

The spokesperson said that all San Diego area schools have closed, and at least four local freeways were shut down. Residents there are expecting at least three of the fires to actually burn their way to the coast, something that did not happen in the big fires years ago.

Peri Grover, senior director of product management at Overland, was in her home in northern San Diego County doing an interview with a media outlet when she suddenly realized she had to leave because of the fire, the spokesperson said.

Bob Farkaly, vice president of sales at Overland, called the company for a regular meeting from Venice, Italy, where he is on vacation, and was first told about the fire affecting the area where he lives, the spokesperson said.

Iomega and BakBone Software, also based in San Diego, were both closed because of the fires, company spokespeople said. However, in both cases, the offices are safe from the flames.