Wildfires Cause GIA Carlsbad to Close

The Gemological Institute of America headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. is under voluntary evacuation due to smoke inhalation risks from the fires that are sweeping through Southern California.

The campus, just north of San Diego, is being hit with blowing smoke from the wildfires in Southern California. At this point, GIA told JCK that its campus is not in any fire danger, but the fires in San Diego County are not yet under control. GIA Carlsbad will be closed Oct. 23 while officials are staying alert for the possibilities of additional closings this week.

Kathryn Kimmel, GIA vice president, Marketing & Public Relations, told JCK that GIA is not in any danger of fire. Some GIA staff members have been displaced and have been evacuated, some to Qualcomm stadium in San Diego. However, Kimmel notes that GIA is in a very safe area.

“We have security there, there are no burning embers,” Kimmel said. “And the smoke is not as bad as it was a few years ago.”
The city of Carlsbad has asked that local businesses close, and Kimmel said that GIA has followed suit. Kimmel added she wants to make it clear that there is no problem at GIA.

“We are not in an evacuation area, she said. “And there are no fires expected to come down to the ocean where GIA is located.”

More than 250,000 people fled their homes in southern California as some of the state’s worst wildfires, fueled by strong Santa Ana winds, scorched more than 100,000 acres and caused at least one death, Bloomberg News reports. Twelve wildfires have burned more than 100,665 acres from Santa Barbara to San Diego County near the Mexican border, Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry, told Bloomberg.

Malibu Canyon, just north of Los Angeles, has been hit hard by fires all the way to the coast. Fred Ward, gemstone author and photojournalist has been asked to evacuate their family home, about 2.5 miles inland. Armed with garden hose and a swimming pool full of water, Ward told JCK that he hopes to hold off any stray embers, like the ones which destroyed the Kashan Castle, just down the road from Ward.

Ward said he is taking this seriously.

“We got out the fire drill gear and practiced a few times today,” Ward said. “We can spray water all the way over the house while standing anywhere around the house. And if the regular water supply happened to run out, we can pump from the pool, which has about 15,000 gallons in it. So we are not without resources. The police came by this morning [Sunday] asking if we wanted to leave and we declined. I think I can take care of the house far better by being here.”

GIA has issued a statement Tuesday on the home page of its Web site. It reads:

GIA’s world headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., is not in danger from the wildfires that have affected the San Diego region. However, because of concerns from local government, law enforcement, and safety authorities, GIA Carlsbad has closed all operations for Tuesday, Oct. 23.

This includes administrative offices, all classes, the GIA Laboratory and GIA Gem Instruments.

The New York GIA Laboratory will be open for business as usual for any clients who need information or assistance.

GIA clients, staff and students can check back here for information regarding the Institute’s operations for Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007.

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