As firefighters continued battling a fast-moving 4,000-acre wildfire in Northern California that has destroyed 175 buildings and forced thousands of residents to flee, including the entire community of Lower Lake, one building remained standing: the Aloha Bay natural candle factory—a fixture in the center of town since 1993.
High heat combined with precariously dry conditions in rural Lake County, 85 miles north of San Francisco, enabled the wildfire dubbed the Clayton fire to double in size over the weekend, and the towns of Clear Lake and Lower Lake were evacuated. As of August 17, the fire was 40 percent contained.
"Our candle factory is one of the only buildings still standing on Main Street in Lower Lake, though we suffered both fire damage and water damage," said Tom Closser, co-founder of Aloha Bay. "We are still assessing the situation. All Aloha Bay employees are safe and accounted for. We plan to establish temporary power and set up a temporary contact number, and we will be back to shipping product within a few days. With damages to the homes of some of our employees and our main facility, we will continue to share updates with our constituents throughout this difficult time," he said.
According to Closser, Aloha Bay lost one 9,000-square-foot warehouse, but all products are replaceable and fully insured. Two other warehouses experienced some water damage, but most of the inventory survived intact. With shipments of candles from its Indonesian production facility and Himalayan salt products arriving this month, the company expects minimal disruption in service to its customers.
"We are so very grateful to all the firefighters who are on the front line saving lives and structures and putting out this devastating blaze," Closser added, “and we will help serve the community as they set about rebuilding their lives.”
Among the Aloha Bay employees affected by the fire are Warehouse Manager Tom Wilsey and his wife Lisa who lost their home and all their belongings in the inferno. A Go Fund Me page has been set up by friends and neighbors for the Wilseys at https://www.gofundme.com/2js4cvhg.
“We are so grateful to the dozens of people in the natural foods industry who reached out to us, including importers extending payment terms, global partners speeding up Himalayan salt and Indonesian candle production, raw material and glass suppliers helping us get restocked, retailers calling us to say they can wait on their orders, just be safe, distributors and broker partners extending significant support, etc. It's the kind of generosity and goodwill that has characterized the natural products industry from the start,” Closser said.
Photo credit: Nick Elias