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Sony Closes San Diego HQ As Wildfires Continue

New York — Sony Electronics’ closing of its San Diego headquarters on Monday and Tuesday is one of many effects the ongoing wildfires in Southern California have made on consumer electronics operations from Los Angeles south to the Mexican border.

The San Diego Union Tribune reported this afternoon that 750 homes have been destroyed or damaged along with about 100 commercial buildings. In excess of 321,000 people have been evacuated from the area, according to a CNN report.

Here is the latest info from companies with operations in the effected area sent and compiled by TWICE as of 4 p.m. EST today:

Sony Electronics, which has 2,000 employees in and around the San Diego area, has had its headquarters here closed since Monday. Company spokesperson Marcy Cohen said, “Some employees are working remotely, many have been displaced from their homes.” Sony has set up a hotline for its employees and have sent emails to employees with pertinent phone numbers for HR assistance, medical needs, etc.

Cohen also said that Sony’s Vaio PC plant in Rancho Bernardo is has been closed. There was no damage to the Vaio plant but at its San Diego headquarters on Monday “the fire came within yards of the building but the wind turned it away. There has been no actual damage … except for the air quality.”

As a result of the fire, Directed Electronics, based in Vista, had a power outage Monday afternoon but said it has returned to business as usual. However, some Directed employees are not at work and have moved to Qualcomm Stadium or other evacuation centers.

At Yamaha, based in Buena Park, Doan Hoff, corporate advertising manager, said, “Thus far our Yamaha business areas have not been directly threatened, although there is plenty of dust, soot and wind at our headquarters. Some of those employees that commute from areas that are near to those affected are keeping a close watch on the situation.”

Sanyo Fisher in Chatsworth did not evacuate its headquarters, but a company spokesperson said that many employees have had to evacuate their homes. “It was business as usual but the company said that the employees and their families’ safety was the main priority [Monday]. We’re all keeping a watch on things today and the wind seems to have died down, which is good news,” said a company spokesperson.

Sanyo Fisher is a division of Sanyo North America, based in San Diego, and its offices were closed yesterday with many employees evacuating their homes, the spokesperson said.

Pioneer Electronics said its operations in Long Beach have not been affected due to the crisis since the closest fire to its offices is 40 miles away.
Mark Simons, VP/GM, Toshiba America Information Systems, digital products division, based in Irvine, said fires came within a few miles of the facility, but there has been no impact.
“Of course, we allowed the employees to monitor the progress of the situation and use their discretion if they needed to evacuate their homes or take care of their families.  The firefighters have done an exceptional job to control the fire and direct it away from the residual areas,” he said.

Rob Kalman, U.S. marketing VP with SED International, said, “It is business as usual for us” at its City of Industry office and warehouse which “has remained open throughout and shipping. Carriers are picking up and delivering. The fire has just started moving more into the Orange County area, so things could change as this goes on.”

D&H, with operations in Fresno, reports that the fires have not affected its distribution center.
Spokespersons for WYNIT and New Age did not report any impacts on their operations.

Current Analysis West, an NPD Group company, based in La Jolla, said its offices have been closed the past two days with no word on opening on Wednesday. A spokesperson said, “Some employees have been forced to evacuate their homes as the fires are moving into their areas. For the time being, it appears that the fire won’t make its way toward our office. But this fire is so erratic that it is difficult to predict its path.

The situation is so critical that during a conference call from Tokyo this morning on Hitachi’s new 1.5-inch Ultra Think LCD HDTVs, San Diego-based company executives Daniel Lee, Kevin Sullivan and Bill Whalen wished their families and co-workers well back home and said they were leaving right after the call to get flights home.Hitachi offices in Chula Vista were closed today.

Here are some responses TWICE received from companies in the fire-stricken area earlier today:

A spokesperson from Gateway, which is based in Irvine, about halfway between San Diego and Long Beach, said, “The office does not appear to be in danger at this point. There is a lot of smoke in the building and surrounding area. Employees have been given the option of working from home. We do have employees living in the evacuation areas, so our thoughts are with them during this difficult week.”

While a number of Best Buy locations were closed on Monday, all stores were scheduled to be open today, a company spokeswoman said. “Our employees’ safety is our priority and we are taking the appropriate measures to ensure that we are supporting them as best we can,” she told TWICE. The company is also supporting the Red Cross through an at-register donation program that will be implemented throughout California.

Similarly, RadioShack reported that the fires “apparently [had] little to almost no impact on store openings,” a spokesman said, “which is great considering the size of the areas that are being affected.” However, the chain is taking steps to ensure that stores are “appropriately stocked with emergency preparedness products, such as radios, cellphone chargers and batteries, to respond to displaced customer needs.”

Kyocera Wireless’ spokesman John Chier said the company’s mailing address is San Diego, but “the office sits in an area known locally as ‘Golden Triangle,’ very near to Sorrento Valley,” which he describes as “the real epicenter of high-tech industry in San Diego.”

He added, “It’s truly frightening out here and, due to the wind and weather patterns, we’re not likely to get any relief for at least another 36 hours. It’s the largest evacuation in the history of San Diego County — over 300,000 people so far. I can’t speak for other companies but I can tell you that Kyocera Wireless closed its office yesterday. Today, however, the office is open and work is on a voluntary basis. Employees affected by the fires are being encouraged to take care of their families and personal situations. As of last night, they were reporting that 500 homes and 100 businesses had burned down in San Diego County. I’m not sure if any of those 100 businesses were CE companies.”

At AVAD, the high-end A/V distributor, a spokesperson said that the group’s San Diego location had been evacuated but couldn’t provide further details at this time.

Nokia’s spokesman Keith Nowak said, “Our office in San Diego is currently closed. The Scripps Ranch area where the office is located has been evacuated. At this time, there does not appear to be any imminent threat to the facility. We use that facility for our North American WCDMA development and our CDMA handset business. Scripps Ranch is the area of San Diego where our office is located. It’s near the town of Poway but within the city of San Diego. I don’t have an estimate of how far away the fires actually are — but last word I have received is that there doesn’t appear to be any imminent danger to the facility.”

He added, “Our folks are busy contacting our San Diego employees to make sure they are safe, and to try to arrange accommodations if needed.”

Bob Lawrence, executive director of Brand Source which is based in Anaheim, reported, “Operationally we have had no issues. [There has been] lots of smoke at the office from the Irvine fire.” He did note that two Brand Source employees have second homes in Lake Arrowhead, and they “don’t know of the houses are still standing,” he said. Lawrence added that the entire Lake Arrowhead area “is evacuated. As a mountain resort it will take a low priority to San Diego, Malibu and Orange County. So they may just let it burn out.”

And Lawrence added, “I have lived in Southern California three times and I have never seen winds like we are having. There is supposed to be no let up until Thursday … and we still have two more months of fire season.”

LG is proceeding with its planned dealer line show in downtown San Diego next week.