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 :)
Good news!!! Residents are finally being returned to their homes in Wakefield!!
They've broken the back of this monster fire and have it surrounded, literally, by trenches dug about 10 stories high. They have also used controlled burns to use up all the fuel in every direction, so it has nowhere to go. It aint going to escape now, so it's just a case of day by day digging out hotspots and really getting it gone. They think it will take a month to put out all the hotspots, but it will get done.
The total area of the fire spread to 2,300 hectares, with a 30 kilometer perimeter. This is a massive area!! To put it into perspective (if that's even possible) the area of the fire is 4,298 football fields in size!
Our booked evacuees are a little nervous about returning. I think they want to see a few days pass before they truly believe it's safe. We totally get that and I think we'd be the same. Personally, I'd want to see some rain hit the area before I felt safe. We've said they can keep their booking in tact for peace of mind, but I expect they'll head home before the weekend.
Thanks you so much @Ben551, for offering your home and for sharing the word on Open Homes. It is amazing due to your help on getting the word out, people affected were able to find a temporary home during this horrible time.
I was reading about the fires in the UK paper over the weekend, it is a relief to hear than the fires are under control now.
A huge thanks to you and Angel.
To add, if anyone wants to know more about the Open Homes program, you can find out more information here.
Oh thanks @Lizzie - I’ll pass your comments on to my good lady. She says she doesn’t deserve any thanks and her colleagues are the true heroes, out there doing the fire fighting, protecting and feeding.... and that’s absolutely true, but I reckon it also takes a lot of small gestures to make a bad situation better.
Yes, I couldn't agree with you more, @Ben551. At times like this it is a community effort, and you see the strength of a place when people come together to support each other.
Bushfires are so devistating because there is nothing you can do. In 2009 when we sold our previous house we rented a house a few doors from where we now for a year from a TV journalist by the name of Murray Nicoll. Murray's most famous piece of radio comentary was him commentating as his own house was lost in the bushfires of 'Ash Wednesday' in 1983. He had to stand there and watch as his own house burned to the ground. Murray's commentary can be heard in this clip from 2 minutes 52 seconds. It still brings tears to listen to it!
In our darkest hours Ben, the thing that gets us through every time is.....humour!
I thought I might get the tractor out and help the CFS cut a firebreak or two for you . But when I had a look at it I thought....maybe it might need a bit of a service first!
Thanks for your nobility Ben, I hope you actually got the opportunity to help!
Hahahaha @Robin4 that tractor is awesome! I can picture you driving it around, terrorising the landscape.
You know though, the sad thing is, they found that the original cause of the Nelson wildfire was a farmer using a tractor. It ignited sparks and created a grass fire, which in turn created the biggest wildfire we've seen in NZ in recorded history. The farmer in question feels absolutely terrible about it. They are still working on this fire now, believe it or not... after all this time, it might not be making headlines anymore, but the fire is still not completely gone. The area remains a "no fire zone" and they have outlawed the use of large farming equipment for the time being.
Everyone is back in their homes now though, so that's wonderful. Once they get the last access restricted area completely and utterly safe... then I'm sure all the residents will breath out.
it could have been nicer - had Airbnb put some skin in the game, like picking up the tab for cleaning fees... after all they’re getting free PR, and more users on their platform. (when hotels pitch in — they don’t ask the poor soles to sign up for their loyalty plans)
it could have been even nicer - had Airbnb contributed something to offset its carbon footprint, that experts believe responsible for global warming and the more frequent calamities
still, nice story, helping the needy people, telling the community all about it.
If I want to open up my home using this program but only for people coming through the program and not regular guests, is there a way I can set my calendar accordingly? In other words, let's say that I have a month when I do not want regular airbnb guests but I would consider having someone through the program, do I have to open up all those dates and risk that I'm going to get paying customers (I know, sounds like a terrible problem)? If so, I probably wouldn't do it. But if there was a way that agencies would know to contact me to see if I'd open up dates, that would be a different matter.
@Laurie301 hrm, good question. I know you won't ever get 'double booked' through Airbnb with Open Home guests and paying guests. But when you open your calendar on Open Home, as far as I'm aware, you are "always open" for the type of relief you want to offer (there are some choices).
Since you can join and leave the Open Home scheme in the "click of a button", without any hassle, I suggest you do just that. When you are ready for Open Home things, turn it on. When you're not, and you want to focus on paying guests, turn it off. There is no obligation to keep it on all the time.