LOS ANGELES — The massive fires that burned across Southern California last week gave supermarket operators a chance to play good neighbor.
While many outlets provided food and water to weary firefighters in their areas, others gave up parts of their parking lots to let ousted homeowners camp for a couple of days.
The fires were generally restricted to unpopulated mountain areas and the rural towns that surround them, and there were no reports of damage to any supermarkets.
One of the fires came within a mile of a Stater Bros. Market in Yucaipa, Calif., but turned away, Jack Brown, chairman and chief executive officer, told SN.
“But local residents in the areas around the store who were forced to evacuate their homes moved their trailers — many with horses — onto the Yucaipa store's parking lot and spent a night or two,” he added.
Brown said the store offered them water and some food. “Many of those people are our customers,” Brown pointed out. “We have two stores in the area, and with just one other chain store there, we do about 80% of the business there.”
Stater also contributed water and snacks to area firefighters, he said.
Albertsons, the local division of Minneapolis-based Supervalu, experienced some sales slowdowns at a couple of locations last week because of heavy smoke from the fires drifting into residential areas, prompting some customers to stay indoors, spokeswoman Lilia Rodriguez told SN.
“We also had a number of folks in campers or trailers who were ordered to evacuate their homes come to the parking lots of one of our stores to wait it out,” she added.