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LOS ANGELES-The devastating wildfires ravaging Southern California thus far appear to have had little direct impact on commercial real estate, but whether the fires have destroyed any commercial structures or otherwise affected the industry remains to be seen because assessments of fire damage remain incomplete.

Fire department officials in Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino counties all told GlobeSt.com Tuesday that nearly all of the buildings destroyed and damaged by the blazes appeared to be single-family homes and outbuildings such as barns and sheds. But officials could not say with certainty whether any commercial structures were lost in the fires because most of the damage assessments were in the early stages. The fires were burning primarily in remote regions and in residential subdivisions near forests and brush land-areas removed from the retail, office and industrial neighborhoods of the region. Most of the fire department spokespersons contacted by GlobeSt.com offered comments similar to that of Peter Puzo, managing director of North L.A. office of Grubb & Ellis, who says, “It’s much too early to tell what effect the fires will have on commercial real estate.”

At least one apartment building owner, BRE Properties Inc. of San Francisco, reported that one of its Southern California apartment complexes was damaged. BRE reported that 10 units were destroyed but no one was injured at its 472-unit Montanosa property in the Tierrasanta area of San Diego. Tenants and staff at the complex were evacuated Sunday but were allowed to return the following evening. A second BRE complex, Mission Trails in the San Carlos area, also was evacuated, but the property sustained no damage. In the Inland Empire, apartment landlords were mobilizing early in the week to help victims of the firestorms by turning over to the Red Cross a list of more than 500 apartments, condos and townhomes available for immediate occupancy. Karen Fricke, executive director of the Apartment Association Greater Inland Empire, says the group sent emergency faxes and e-mails to all 1,100 members asking for their help. In many cases, Fricke says, landlords are offering free or discounted rent, with appliance companies and furniture rental outlets also pitching-in to help displaced families.

The blazes were bound to have some impact on commercial real estate, pointed out Mary Sullivan, Ontario-based California client services manager for Grubb & Ellis, because the fires were affecting so many facets of daily life. For example, this has not been a good time to plan and arrange property site tours, Sullivan says, because people are generally reluctant to travel any more than is absolutely necessary in the ash- and smoke-filled air that blankets the basin. Citing the loss of homes, Sullivan noted that Southern California, already faced with a shortage of homes, can ill afford to lose any of its housing.

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