Joanna Benko, center, serves breakfast to James Armstrong, right, and other wildfire evacuees Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif. The stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers, is being used as an evacuation center for those affected by wildfires. (AP Photo/Ric Francis)
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Chased from their homes and practice fields by deadly wildfires, the San Diego Chargers will return home to play the Houston Texans at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday as scheduled.
The game's date and time had been in doubt because Qualcomm was used as a major evacuation center during the wildfires that swept San Diego County. The stadium was to close as an evacuation center at noon Friday.
"Early Friday morning the Chargers informed me that the NFL has decided to play Sunday's game as scheduled at Qualcomm Stadium," Mayor Jerry Sanders said in a press release. "The City will be able to provide sufficient public safety personnel to manage a professional football game without impeding ongoing wildfire recovery efforts."
Though several blazes still burned Friday across San Diego County, thousands of evacuees have been trickling back to neighborhoods stripped bare.
The mayor's spokesman, Fred Sainz, said Qualcomm was never intended to be a long-term shelter, because it doesn't have a roof and showers weren't available.
"The mayor's concern has always been that evacuees be dealt with correctly and appropriately," Sainz said. "The city's decision to host this game on Sunday was completely separate and apart from the long-term sustainability of Qualcomm as an evacuation shelter."
Sanders had said Thursday that the stadium could be ready for a game by Sunday.
Sainz said the city's three main concerns were that the remaining evacuees could be moved to other sites, that there would be enough police to work a game as usual and that the stadium would be ready.
"When those three boxes were checked off and the mayor felt comfortable, is when we told the Chargers that the stadium could be ready," Sainz said.
The Chargers had no immediate comment.
Some 46 players, coaches and staff members had to evacuate their suburban homes starting early Monday morning. Among them were LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman, coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith.
The team canceled practice Monday, then flew to Phoenix on Tuesday night for three days of practice at the Arizona Cardinals' headquarters. The Chargers were scheduled to practice there Friday afternoon.
Four years ago to the week, the Chargers had to move a home Monday night game on short notice to Tempe because Qualcomm was sheltering evacuees from deadly wildfires and the air was fouled by smoke.
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