Fires Char Business Profits
The Southern California fires are estimated to be responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of damage as early as Oct. 23, according to an article that appeared in Reuters.
Many affected local businesses have lost profits from shutting down temporarily or had their employees work from home when their smoke levels throughout much of Irvine reached heights deemed hazardous by employers.
A number of software companies are based in Irvine, including Blizzard Entertainment and Sage Software. The effects of the fire were noted by Sage Software Vice President of Human Resources, Beccie Dawson.
‘Smoke conditions were so severe we had to close our Irvine offices for two days,’ Dawson said.
In case of fires or other disasters such as severe weather, power failures and earthquakes, many businesses, including Sage Software, have emergency plans in place that let employees know exactly what to expect in case of an emergency.
According to the plan, Sage Software employees are still paid regular full-time wages even when the company deems it necessary to stop working operations. When the company does not deem such action necessary, employees who fail to show up for work are not paid. Such plans allow for a clear understanding between employers and employees working around natural disasters.
While preventative plans may ease transitioning work responsibilities during a fire, physical systems capable of combating a fire may also be important.
Brian Chrastil is the owner of Great Coffee 4 U, an Irvine-based company that specializes in shipping gourmet coffee. Chrastil noted that one cautionary plan at Great Coffee 4 U was the use of the sprinkler system to prevent fire damage.
‘We have a sprinkler system around the office,’ Chrastil said. Later, he added, ‘we may need to add sprinkler systems to all business [or] home owners that are along the forest and heavily-wooded areas.’
While sprinkler systems have limited impact on external spreading flames, according to a Washington Post article from 2001, industry estimates show that sprinkler systems have a 95-99 percent success rate.
Although such systems may be helpful for fighting future flames, the effects of this fire have already taken their toll on some businesses. One such business is Bacchus’ Secret Cellar Wine Shoppe & Wine Bar.
‘Our business was greatly affected. The air quality was so bad, people didn’t want to leave their houses,’ said Cary Grandfield-Malone, chief financial officer of Bacchus’ Secret Cellar Wine Shoppe & Wine Bar. With a disaster outside the door, the event also made for a somber atmosphere.
‘The mood was also very much like 9-11. We closed early on Wednesday because there were no people at the center at all. In fact, on Monday and Tuesday no one even came during the day to eat lunch like they normally do. Our sales were down about 30 percent this week,’ Grandfield-Malone said. In addition to the fire’s impact on businesses, the cost of property damage to homeowners has also left a sizable impression on California’s economic state.
This was recently discussed by Ron Lane, the emergency services director of San Diego County, in a press conference on Oct. 23.
‘Based on initial estimates, just the homes damaged will be over $1 billion,’ Lane said.