NFL games still on despite California fires

Two NFL games in California remain on the schedule for Sunday despite the Woolsey Fire (pictured) and two others burning in the Golden State.Photo Credit: The Desert Sun-USA TODAY NETWORK

Sports Xchange

The NFL issued a statement on Friday saying that games set to be hosted by the Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders on Sunday will be played as scheduled despite the wildfires burning in California.

The Rams are slated to host the Seattle Seahawks at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with the Raiders facing the Los Angeles Chargers at the Oakland Coliseum.

“We are monitoring conditions in California and are in close communication with the clubs and local authorities,” the NFL said in its statement. “At this point, both the Los Angeles Chargers-Oakland Raiders game and the Seattle Seahawks-Los Angeles Rams game will kick off as scheduled.”

The Southern California wildfires forced 45 Rams employees to evacuate their homes, head coach Sean McVay said. About 20 players and coaches were affected, including defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive line coach Bill Johnson.

When the fire crossed Highway 101, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for Malibu and “all areas south of 101 Freeway from Ventura County line to Las Virgenes Road.”

The Rams, who train at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, canceled practice on Friday and are scheduled to practice on Saturday at USC in Los Angeles.

“Everybody (in the Rams organization) is OK,” McVay said in a statement issued by the team. “I knew that there was going to be a bunch of guys that ended up having to leave their houses just based on the way that those fires spread and that are living in those areas that were affected by it. … I don’t think anybody’s houses has specifically been affected in terms of (burning down), but they did have to leave the areas. For us, which is all the things that are considered knowing that how some of the road closings, the quality of the air potentially, we just felt like most importantly was for the guys to be with their families, their wives, their kids and kind of be that support structure and do things the right way and not have them come in, be totally distracted, like I know I would be if I was in their role.”

The Hill Fire and the Woolsey Fire burning in Southern California are a second blow to the area this week after the mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar late Wednesday night.

The Rams plan to honor the victims and survivors of that tragedy Sunday.

“I think, if anything, the last couple days give you perspective,” McVay said.

The Camp Fire in Northern California, which killed five people near the town of Paradise, is located about 200 miles north of the San Francisco Bay Area, but winds have driven smoke south.

The Raiders’ practice was affected on Thursday and on Friday they cut back on their practice schedule because of poor air quality.

Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that some Raiders dealt with “occasional coughing, eyes burning, headache in the past two days.”

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said the team will “react to whatever the circumstances are” and said his main concern is for the people being impacted by the fire.