Raging Wildfires Lead to Devastation Among California’s Fashion Companies

As wildfires continue to ravage Northern California’s wine country, many local businesses have been forced to shutter stores and watch employees evacuate their homes.

Twenty-two major wildfires have broken out in the Napa and Sonoma counties, destroying thousands of homes and resulting in 23 deaths.

wildfires in california
A firefighter monitors a house burning in Santa Rosa, Calif.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

By Thursday, thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes as firefighters struggled to contain fires on more than 119,000 acres of land. Local shoe companies, many of which have headquarters in the affected areas, were also struggling with the devastation.

Retail chain Sole Desire, whose head office is located in Sonoma County, was heavily affected by the fires.

Phil Aved, the brand’s director of special projects, told Footwear News that the company closed down seven of its 15 locations as heavy smoke made it impossible for anyone get through.

northern california wildfires
Fires range in Northern Calif.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

Two of the company’s employees, along with company co-owner Dave Astobiza, lost their homes to the flames.

As of Thursday, they were waiting for news on whether the brand’s main office in Santa Rosa was damaged as well, said Aved.

Birkenstock, which is also based in Northern California, has been keeping a close eye on the horrific situation day by day as the fires have moved through the areas where many of its employees live.

northern california wildfires
A house burning in Northern California.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

While the company did not suffer damage to its head office in Novato or shut down any stores, a quarter of its staff has been forced to evacuate their homes for temporary shelters as the fires have progressed.

“We have an all-hands-on-deck atmosphere here so we are not missing a beat businesswise; however, the toll personally is a cause for concern,” said Dave Kahan, the company’s chief executive editor.

Like Birkenstock, the Vionic shoe brand has been carefully monitoring the wildfires as they edge closer to its stores and offices.

northern california wildfires
A house in flames.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

Many of the company’s employees have evacuated their homes for temporary shelters as they wait for basic services to return to their neighborhoods.

“Life is far from normal for all who live in these areas, as most schools are closed and many local retail stores and other services have been lost,” said Lisa Bazinet, the company’s executive vice president.

As firefighters struggle to contain the movement of the wildfires, all companies are anxiously waiting to see what the next day will bring.

“Within our office, we have heavy hearts — if we aren’t directly involved, most of us are close to someone who is.”

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