Calif. Fires Force Tech Company Closings

Qualcomm Stadium is used as a refuge for evacuees.

SAN DIEGO—Raging wildfires have forced some local technology companies to close their offices, including Qualcomm and Sony Electronics. Risk is greatest for employees homes than for the businesses.

Sony Electronics closed its U.S. headquarters on Oct. 23 for a second day, sending home nearly 2,500 employees from its 71-acre campus in Rancho Bernardo. Fires ravaged the area on Oct. 22 and Oct. 23.

Hewlett-Packards printing and imaging division also is located Rancho Bernardo. The office couldnt be reached during normal business hours on Oct. 23, suggesting closure because of the fires.

Qualcomm, which employs more than 11,000 people in San Diego, wasnt in the fires direct paths. But some employees live in areas ravaged or threatened by the wildfires. Qualcomms headquarters is located south of the worst fires.

Local TV stations reported more than 1,700 homes and about 100 businesses destroyed in and around San Diego as of 6 p.m. PDT on Oct. 23. As many as 350,000 homes had been evacuated, displacing an estimated 500,000 to 700,000 people.


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Qualcomm Stadium opened as a refuge for tens of thousands of people displaced or made homeless by the wildfires, which were spurred on by Santa Ana winds gusting 50 mph to 70 mph. The stadium can hold as many as 100,000 people.

The largest of four fires, locally called Witch Creek, cut a swath of destruction north of San Diego towards the Pacific Ocean. As of late afternoon on Oct. 23, wildfires had destroyed an estimated 260,000 acres.

The wildfires impacted other local businesses. Most stores closed early on Oct. 22 at local malls, such as Mission Valley. Many stores at Westfield UTC, near La Jolla, didnt open on Oct. 23.

Local infrastructure labored under the stress of the crisis, with spotty cellular coverage throughout the San Diego area.

Qualcomm and Sony arent the only technology companies with visible presence in and around San Diego. Gateway (now part of Acer), EMC, Intel and Microsoft are among the other technology companies with local offices.

Gateways offices are in Poway, which was along the path of the Witch Creek fire. By late afternoon on Oct. 23, the risk had diminished enough from the Sunday night and Monday maelstrom for the lifting of evacuation orders in some Poway neighborhoods.

"Although the office does not appear to be in any danger at this point, there is some smoke in the building and surrounding area," said Acer/Gateway spokeswoman Lisa Emard. "Employees have been given the option of working from home. We do have some employees living in the evacuation areas, so our thoughts are with them during this difficult week."


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