San Diego VARs Hard Hit By California Fires


The devastating wildfires sweeping Southern California are taking their toll on the channel as some solution providers wonder when they can re-open, and all express concern for employees that have not yet reported in or who have lost their homes.

About 19 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 which almost exactly four years ago scoured Southern California . They have so far caused the evacuation of nearly one million people and the loss of over 1,000 homes.

Bruce Geier, founder, president, and CEO of Technology Integration Group, a San Diego-based solution provider, said that as of late Tuesday, his office was running with only 20 percent of its staff of 150 people at their desks.

"We told them to take care of their families first," Geier said. "They can come in if they want, but we're not monitoring it. I can't say how many reported to work. I don't care."

Geier said he has lived in San Diego since 1978, and this is by far the worst fire he has ever seen. "It's already bigger than the one four years ago, and it isn't even starting to be contained," he said.

Geier and his family evacuated their home at 6:00 am Tuesday, and by noon one of the fires was raging in his neighborhood, he said. Of the four houses on his street, at least two were consumed by the flames, but he is not sure of the status of his own home. A neighbor told him that fire trucks had been sitting on his property to fight the fire which consumed his neighbor's garage.

It's a difficult time for the people of San Diego, Geier said. The fire has been moving fast, giving those who need to be evacuated maybe a 90-minute opportunity to get out. "You gotta pack up the kids, get the photos and important papers, and grab the jewelry," he said. "It's tough."

Geier ended up evacuating to the La Jolla, Calif. condominium his company keeps for employees who travel from remote offices to visit the San Diego headquarters.

TIG's CFO was not so lucky, Geier said. "He already lost his house," he said. "It was leveled. It's really sad. In this situation, you always feel there were other things you could have gotten out."

Rich Baldwin, president of Nth Generation, a San Diego-based solution provider, said the San Bernardo fire stopped across the street from the company's office, and that he was able to gain access late Tuesday to do an assessment despite the area being restricted to people looking to return.

Baldwin, who with his personnel were able to retrieve backup tape early in the fire, said Nth's systems appear to be undamaged. "But we will probably hold off operations for now," he said. "We're trying to assess damages."

The power and air conditioning are working, which is a good sign, Baldwin said. But the odor from the fire is intense. "It will be here for a while," he said.

Security in San Diego is an issue, Baldwin said, but police and National Guardsmen seem to be on guard near every corner to prevent problems, he said.

All of Nth's employees seem to be OK, including the dozen or so that were evacuated, Baldwin said. At least one employee, a receptionist, was evacuated to Qualcomm Stadium, the primary relief center in San Diego during the fires.

Nth's IT person, who lives in Squaw Valley, said the house at the end of the street burned, but her own home escaped damage, except for some damage to the landscaping, Baldwin said.

The company's sales manager had evacuated his parents from Fallbrook to his home in Valley Center, Baldwin said. However, flames spread to that area as well, forcing him and his parents to evacuate to his brother's house in Oceanside.

Baldwin's home was also close to the flames, but as of late Tuesday appears to have not suffered any damage other than a lot of debris on the ground and ash in the swimming pool. For now, he is staying in his second home near the ocean.

Kent Kellough, vice president of the western region for Advanced Systems Group, headquartered in Denver, said his company's San Diego office has so far been relatively untouched by the fire.

Unlike four years ago, when the flames came to within 100 feet of the office, this time the fires seem to have come no closer than 10 miles.

Some of ASG's personnel were evacuated, but as of Tuesday night at least one had returned home. The company's system engineer took in relatives from two families who had to evacuate.

Kellough said his primary residence was not near the fire. However, he was not sure about his second home in Ramona, Calif., the entire town of which was evacuated early in the current firestorm. "It was very much in the fire line," he said. "Of 50 homes in my neighborhood, at least two burned."

Kellough said he is advising his colleagues to drive and use cell phones as little as possible. "And we tell them, their highest priority is to take care of family and friends," he said.