Allow me to tell you a brilliant story that has made my day.
2 days ago, my wife (Angel) and I were looking at our calendar and realised we were approaching our first ever unhooked days, being a 3 day period stretching over the weekend. Given the high season is starting to ebb now, we didn’t expect this to book, so my wife was taking some time to tinker with the calendar....
Then she noticed something.
A little button popped up on Airbnb asking her to offer our home for free! Intrigued, she read further and found that Airbnb were asking all hosts in our region to assist the thousands of evacuees hit by wildfire in the Tasman region (next region over, by boat). She’d been watching the coverage of the fire all week but had no idea we could host evacuees through Airbnb.
She called out to me, we looked at the screen for 5 seconds then both said “no brainer” and clicked “list my home for free”. 3 clicks later and we were listed. We noticed 30 other hosts had also listed, which was great! After listing our home we were certain we would receive some evacuees the next morning.... but nothing happened.
Throughout the the course of the next day (yesterday) we waited... still nothing. We noticed that the number of hosts had grown from 30 to 86. Great, we thought!
But did people outside Airbnb know about it?
We watched the news coverage of the fires last night and saw nothing from civil defence saying they were using the Airbnb free homes thing... so we began to worry that nobody in the affected region knew about the site, or perhaps didn’t have any way to access it!
So my wife picked up the phone to 1 News, the main news station in NZ.
She thought about contacting Civil Defence directly but decided it was better to get the word out on a wider scale through the news room, plus ask them to get the information to the evacuation centres on the ground (where their reporters are).
An hour later, this news article appeared:
I’m pretty proud of her right now. Since her 15 minute conversation with a news reporter the number of hosts has blown past 100+ and people are starting to get the help they need. Thousands more were evacuated last night as the fire continues to spread, so having this information up in the local news is essential.
Our place is an expensive boat ride away from the fire hit region, but we are still prepared for an evacuee booking today. But in the meantime, those closer to the region have come out in droves since the article went live last night and listed their homes up.
In the meantime, while we all continue to pray for rain over the Tasman, this morning I’m taking my beautiful wife out for breakfast :)
@Sandra126thanks, although they seem to have grown worse over the course of today and, as of today, the Tasman region fire is now officially the worse fire in New Zealand for 50 years. We literally are praying for a miracle for residents of Nelson, Wakefield and Wai-iti.
We are now up to 2,500 people evacuated and it has hit a third town. Civil Defence were filmed this afternoon saying "it's in gods hands now", because they are genuinely concerned about the wind tomorrow. They've done all they can to control this, but if the wind picks up tomorrow like the forecast says, then it's going to get even worse.
To make matters worse, 237 kilometers away, a second fire broke out in my city of Wellington this afternoon just across the valley from us!
This is a photo we took ourselves from our lounge window:
The wildfire photographed above in Wellington has burned for 2.5 hours and at one point we saw flames about 12 stories high over the trees. They seem to have got it under control now, thank god, but there is still smoke pouring out of the trees.
To be honest, we were worried about Civil Defence having to call the Wellington fire helicopters back from serving against the Tasman fire (across the channel) becuase they really can't afford to fight fire in two places at once. The Tasman fire is far larger and more dangerous, so it was a bit nerve wrecking watching and hoping the Wellington fire wouldn't turn into a second front for fire services to battle.
Update to the above photo - they got the Wellington fire out in record time, before dark last night, so all attention (and resources) was able to be turned back to the Wakefield major fire zone. The hill is blackened but fire free today. Celebrating small miracles.
Robyn here, a fellow Kiwi living in california for many years and an AirBnB host only for a few months.
I was born in Wellington but moved to Waihi when I was a child.
We have been up to our eyeballs in California wildfires for a couple of years now. It is scary times.
We send you good wishes and hope they get these fires under controll real soon. It's hard to imagine New Zealand being dry enough for wildfires.
Thank you for all your posts.
@Branka & Silvia1@Ria16@Sandra126 Things went as well as they possibly could last night, so everyone is fortunate in Wakefield. The fire rages on but it has reached flat land, which is less problematic for fire fighters, so they are hopeful for today’s progress.
Meanwhile, we had a lovely evacuee family book with us who were away on holiday but now can’t return home as planned. Civil Defence have also started spamming the Airbnb free accommodation information on their daily bulletin page, so that should help a lot.
@Branka & Silvia1 Yeah it’s really positive news, I was so glad to read the updates this morning and see some hopeful messages.
This is the first time, watching a disaster unfold on the news, where I have personally felt like I could do something practical to help. Most often it’s just “phone this number and make a donation” but it’s just not the same, you know? Airbnb has really connected the dots with this system, it’s fantastic!
In theory all good, but read what happened after fires in LA on this forum. People coming for free vacation, people who wanted to stay for prolonged periods without proof of residency, no process to figure out if people were impacted.
Another Airbnb scheme that rapidly goes off the rails once exposed to the mischief of the guests..
Sorry that you feel that way @Pete28 - I think being so remote we are a little more insulated against such shenanigans. But even so, I don't think it's a good way to live to say we shouldn't help anyone at all, just because of a few bad eggs...
Just a quick update for those who are interested - today was a good fire fighting day. The fire isn’t out but it has slowed and is more contained.
The winds were not as strong as predicted and the fire services were able to establish a fire break perimeter around the entire wildfire zone in Wakefield. This is great news for residents as it means a far greater chance of containment and an end to the entire ordeal soon.
Folks are still evacuated to behind the cordon and emergency services have established a whole raft of camp-site-style amenities. The Army cooks showed up and man oh man! They established camp and built an instant kitchen and messing area faster than you can say “what’s for dinner?” Today they were pumping out hundreds of meals to hungry mouths and evacuees and response workers. Everyone is getting a good feed! Defence Force really do know how to come through in these situations.
It’s looking hopeful that the winds will be even less tomorrow, which should really give fire services a chance to beat this monster down. Fingers, toes and everything crossed this will end soon.