Relieved at the low level of damage sustained by commercial properties in the November fires, real estate professionals in Southern California have turned their attention to fund-raising for the 3,400 households that suffered losses in California's worst-ever brush fires.

The wildfires, which raged north to Los Angeles County and south to San Diego County, consumed 800,000 acres of land, destroyed 3,400 homes and killed at least 20 people.

A November survey from Wachovia Securities reported that 296 commercial properties with Wachovia mortgages were located in the fire zones, or the two-mile-wide buffer zones surrounding the burn sites. The collateral balance of those properties totaled $1.5 billion. “While there was a lot of potential for buildings to be affected, we did not see any impact,” says Wachovia real estate analyst Davis Cable.

A space planner and his family were forced to evacuate their home, with little time to grab anything but the laptops. A fund-raiser held in November, organized by the local chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) garnered $2,000 for the family. Others who offered help were members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which created both a fund to rebuild housing, and offered free design services and consulting to newly homeless families.