AGOURA HILLS, Calif. — Dru Jeppe was working in Reeds Furniture’s Onxard, Calif., store Thursday, when a customer came in looking to furnish his temporary apartment.
The customer had just lost his house to the fires raging in nearby Ventura. He also lost his skittish cat that couldn’t be caught in the rush to evacuate.
“You could feel his pain,” said Jeppe, president of the two-store retailer, with an Oxnard location about 10 miles away from the fire.
“I said, ‘I’m so sorry,’ and he said, ‘We’re not accepting condolences because it doesn’t help.' I’m never going to forget that.”
And Jeppe said she knows there will be many more stories like this in the weeks ahead.
The California wildfires, fueled by strong Santa Ana winds, have now burned more than 100,000 acres in Southern California, according to several reports and spread from Ventura northwest of parts of Los Angeles and south to greater San Diego.
But it’s the Thomas Fire in Ventura County that’s most concerning to Jeppe and her team. Already, Reeds’ Internet specialist and a warehouse employee living in the area were forced to evacuate their homes, though neither has lost property yet. Reeds executive Dan Brain was asleep Sunday night with no signs of a fire anywhere nearby, when the winds whipped up, the power went out and his phone started beeping the evacuation alert.
“He looked up and the whole hillside was on fire,” Jeppe said. “By morning, half of Ventura had burned,” she estimated.
Yet the Reeds stores in Oxnard and Agoura Hills have remained open and, so far, are out of harm’s way, she said, though traffic has been off for obvious reasons. CNN reported there have been more than 200,000 evacuations, more than 500 structures destroyed and more than 25,000 homes threatened by the blaze.
Jeppe didn’t want to talk about the business that’s likely to follow when things returned to normal.
“We’re just assessing what’s going on and as they come in, we’re going to help them one at a time," she said.
“We were afraid it would go through the weekend, but right now the winds have died down, so that’s good news."
Furniture Today is in the process of reaching out to other stores that may be impacted by the fires. A spokeswoman for Ikea, with stores in Carson, Torrance and San Diego, said in a statement: “Our hearts go out to the many people who have been impacted by the wild fires in Southern California. We have been in constant contact with our stores in the area to ensure they are operating under safe conditions and that our co-workers are safe. We have also reached out to the Red Cross to determine the best way we can assist with relief and recovery efforts in the area.”
If you have a fire-related story to tell, please contact Clint Engel at Furniture Today.