clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Chargers, Padres among wildfire evacuees; practices moved to Arizona

SAN DIEGO — Reigning NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson was one of 40 members of the San Diego Chargers' organization who were forced to evacuate their homes as wildfires burned in San Diego County, and the team will spend the rest of the week practicing in Arizona.

The Chargers, who had just returned from their bye weekend, canceled practice Monday due to poor air quality and so the players could take care of their families, spokesman Bill Johnston said.

The Chargers, scheduled to host Houston on Sunday, announced they will fly to Phoenix on Tuesday and practice at the Arizona Cardinals' headquarters in Tempe on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The Cardinals have a bye this weekend.

"Our team is more than willing to accommodate them," Cardinals spokesman Mark Dalton said.

"Our overwhelming priority now is the safety of our players and staff and their families," the Chargers said in a statement. "Our prayers are with everyone who is impacted by this tragedy."

Four years to the week after being forced to move a Monday night game to Tempe on short notice because of deadly wildfires, the Chargers and the NFL said it was too early to know if the fires will affect Sunday's game. As it was in 2003, Qualcomm Stadium's parking lot and part of a concourse were being used as an evacuation center.

"We are monitoring," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail.

Wildfires fanned by fierce desert winds forced the evacuations of nearly 250,000 people in the county.

There was no immediate word if any Chargers employees had lost their homes. Many Chargers players, as well as other current and former pro athletes, live in Poway and other suburbs in northern San Diego County.

Trevor Hoffman, baseball's career saves leader, was among a handful of Padres personnel who had to evacuate. Also leaving their homes were manager Bud Black and CEO Sandy Alderson.

Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and his wife left their Poway home at 6 a.m. and were waiting out the fire at their daughter's house in Mission Valley.

"I think we're going to be all right. I hope," Gwynn said. "When we left it was fine, but who knows?"

Gwynn said he and his wife didn't wait for a reverse 911 call notifying them to get out.

"We were up watching the news, they gave a description of what area they wanted evacuated, and it was us," said Gwynn, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29 along with Cal Ripken Jr.

"There was lots of smoke," Gwynn said. "It was still dark, but you could see ash falling everywhere. Trees were down and the power had just went off when we left."

Gwynn said they didn't grab much more than some clothes and insurance papers.

"I hope my house is there when it's all over, but that's why you have insurance," he said.

Gwynn, the baseball coach at his alma mater, San Diego State, canceled practice Monday and was keeping in touch with players whose families live in affected areas.

Hoffman said he left his home in exclusive Rancho Santa Fe at about 6:30 a.m. and was heading north with his family.

"I'm just thinking about San Diego as a whole right now, being under siege by all these fires," Hoffman said by cell phone. "I'm sure everybody is kind of doing due diligence as far as getting their families out."

Tomlinson couldn't immediately be reached for comment. His mother, Loreane, said from Waco, Texas, that he called at 5 a.m. PDT and told her that he and his wife were looking for a hotel. "I told him to keep me posted," Loreane Tomlinson said.

Center Nick Hardwick said players were asked at a team meeting to raise their hands if they were affected, "and at one point, three-quarters of the room raised their hands. I guess a lot of guys live up there. There were some pretty long faces this morning. A lot of coaches and people upstairs have to deal with this."

Hardwick lives in Point Loma, near the Pacific Ocean.

"It's pretty humbling, for sure," Hardwick said. "You've got guys with families dealing with real situations. You don't normally expect that coming to work. Normally, the worst-case scenario is when you miss a block or something, but if your house is burning down and you have to get your family out of the city, that's a different issue."

Tomlinson's business manager, Lamar Andrews, said he checked on the player at 5 a.m. and he and his wife had already left their home. Andrews said two other players he represents, safety Marlon McCree and linebacker Matt Wilhelm, also evacuated.

Chargers long snapper David Binn said the first concern is to make sure everyone is safe. "Whatever happens after that, you go with the flow," he said. "At some point you have to get back to football. Obviously the NFL is not going to stop for a fire. It'll be a distraction for sure, but not something we can't overcome."

If the Texans-Chargers game is moved to Arizona, Houston coach Gary Kubiak said he heard it could be played Sunday night or Monday night. The Cardinals' stadium, located in Glendale, is scheduled to host a motorcycle show Friday through Sunday.

"They'll figure out a time for us to play the football game," he said. "You're concerned for those people in California in those fires. I've been through that in Denver and that's a horrible thing, so you just keep them in your prayers and we'll figure out what to do with the football game."

Bruce Bochy, the former Padres manager who just finished his first year as manager of the San Francisco Giants, lives in north Poway and said he heard about the fires while vacationing with his wife in Paris. Bochy, who left San Diego early Sunday morning, said he got several increasingly frantic text messages from his son, Greg, who was house-sitting.

"They made him evacuate the house," Bochy said by cell phone. "I think it's still there. It's gotten some houses close to us, which is why he had to evacuate."

Bochy also said he got a call from David Wells, asking if he'd lost his house. Wells, who was at his hunting ranch in Michigan, lives near Hoffman.

The Mountain West Conference said Saturday night's game between BYU and San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium remains scheduled.


AP sports writers Bob Baum in Phoenix and Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.