Rexel Inc., Dallas, temporarily shut down three of its southern California branches when the worst wildfires in southern California's history swept through the region late last month.

The company shut down its branches in northern San Diego, Escondido and El Cajun for at least half a day because of problems with ash and air pollution. At least one employee lost her home in the wildfires. Lyn Smith, operations manager for Rexel's branch in El Cajun, was back at work the morning of Oct. 27 helping customers, just a day after a fire destroyed her home in El Cajun.

“She's a trouper,” said David Wallace, general manager of Rexel's southwestern U.S. operations.

While the fires were raging, Smith said she was more concerned with keeping products needed for the recovery efforts in stock at the El Cajun facility, and she has been busy air freighting deliveries from manufacturers. For instance, Leviton Manufacturing Co. Inc., Little Neck, N.Y., air-freighted receptacles for a Home Depot request for generator-related equipment. Siemens Energy and Automation Inc., Alpharetta, Ga., shipped distribution equipment to help restore power.

OneSource Distributors Inc., San Diego, operated with a skeleton crew on Oct. 27 but was back to full speed at its distribution center the next day, said Bob Zamarippa, company president.

“The biggest challenge the company faced was helping several employees who had to be evacuated from their homes,” he said. “We had a number of employees evacuated due to potential fire issues. That was a big challenge. We set up a central command spot here at our headquarters in Oceanside and then offered to put them up at a local hotel by the coast here.”

Kathy Ellison, president of B&K Electric Wholesale, City of Industry, Calif., said several employees who work at B&K's Rancho Cucamonga branch had to evacuate their homes, and some employees were not able to get to work because of a fire that crossed Interstate 15. Wildfires came within eight miles of Ellison's vacation home near the Big Bear Lake resort area.