Airbnb activates free housing for victims of Wine Country infernos

As multiple raging fires swept through Northern California on Monday, destroying 1,500 structures and killing at least two people, many in the area were left with nowhere to go.

In answer, Airbnb has offered up its online short-term rental platform to provide free housing for victims of the fires and rescue workers in need of somewhere to crash.

Residents living near the areas affected by the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa and the Atlas Fire south of Lake Berryessa can sign up on Airbnb to donate space in their home from now until Oct. 30. Those seeking shelter or willing to help can sign up here.

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As of Monday afternoon, four people in the area appeared to have offered up their homes on the platform.

Airbnb regularly makes its short-term rental service available for people in need of free housing following major disasters, using a program called Open Homes. The San Francisco-based startup recently activated the program to provide housing for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the Las Vegas shooting and the earthquake in central Mexico. In June, Airbnb started using the program to house refugees in the Bay Area, as millions flee violence in Syria and elsewhere around the world.

When the Open Homes tool is activated, Airbnb automatically contacts its established community of hosts in the area, and asks if they have extra space to donate. Hosts who choose to participate list their homes free of charge, and Airbnb waives booking fees. Participants get access to the usual Airbnb features, including the company’s customer support and the “Host Guarantee,” which includes $1 million worth of insurance.

On Monday, 14 fires were burning in Northern California, prompting the evacuation of an estimated 20,000 people — many of whom fled for their lives in the middle of the night, without bringing any possessions. Five of the larger fires had burned more than 70,000 acres across parts of eight different counties, including Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Yuba.

Photo: A small barn catches fire on Soda Canyon Road during the Atlas Peak Fire in Napa, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)


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  • menloman

    Airbnb is doing nearly nothing. They’re simply taking credit for homeowners generosity.