California hotels and communities are hosting people’s pets and offering free or discounted housing to help those impacted by wildfires

A member of the Airbnb Open Homes program. 

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A member of the Airbnb Open Homes program.

  • While wildfires burn across California, communities and hospitality organizations are coming together to help house evacuees.

  • Some areas are opening up more hotel rooms and lodging to evacuees, and others are offering reduced rates to those in need.

  • Airbnb is also offering free shelter through its Open Homes program, and Wag Hotels will host furry friends.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As wildfires continue to burn across California, local communities are coming together to offer evacuees steeply discounted lodging at hotels and opening up their homes to those who need a place to stay. 

That includes furry family members too, with one service providing bedding, food, and 24-hour care for both cats and dogs of families who have been forced to vacate their homes. 

As evacuees search for somewhere safe while also grappling with the challenges of the pandemic, these are some of the resources available for those impacted by the current Northern California fires. 

Communities coming together

Initial shelter in place orders mandated by Mendocino County stated that only 75% of a hotel, motel, campground, or RV park could be occupied by visitors. But Mendocino County is now temporarily considering guests “long-term renters” instead of temporary lodgers following a decision made by Dr. Noemi Doohan, Mendocino County Health Officer, in cooperation with the county. This aims at encouraging evacuees to occupy isolated spaces such as hotel rooms, as opposed to crowded spaces. 

“Because evacuees might otherwise have to go to community shelters, crowd into family homes, or seek other forms of congregate housing, the public health risks of filling transient lodging to capacity are outweighed by the risks of turning evacuees away,” Doohan said on the Mendocino County’s shelter in place FAQ. 

The county is providing live updates on fire status via Twitter.

Santa Cruz is providing live updates and a roster of available lodging

Santa Cruz is providing live updates on the blaze from CalFire via the Visit Santa Cruz website — and linking to a real-time roster of local and regional hotel rooms with open availability. The list is currently sitting close to 60 properties and growing, with confirmed availability and discounted rates for displaced evacuees who need shelter as far south as Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo, all the way up to Santa Cruz County. 

“The more we can work together to support one another, the better it can be,” Christina Glynn, communications director of Visit Santa Cruz County, told Business Insider. She said that nearby counties have been working with each other to offer safe lodging for evacuees across county lines. 

“With this overflow that we have, offering available rooms regionally is a huge help,” she said. According to an August 23 release from the County of Santa Cruz, there’s also a selection of properties in the works to be offered by the county, available to stay in free of charge. 

Sonoma County has also created a landing page of available lodging, which is updated daily at 10 a.m., and includes information on properties offering reduced rates for fire evacuees and updates on fire containment. On the Monterey Peninsula, over 60 hotel properties are offering reduced rates for those affected by the three fires raging in the Tri-County area. Evacuees can find updated information on the See Monterey website.

Team San Jose works with regional hotels to offer special rates for those in need 

In partnership with the Mayor’s Office, the Office of Economic Development, Silicon Valley Strong — Team San Jose, and the region’s hotels have created a special program offering reduced rates in local hotels for those in need. 

Additionally, Team San Jose has assisted in finding accommodations for first responders, including firefighters and American Red Cross emergency workers. 

The “San Jose Cares” rates start at $99, and are available at more than ten area hotels. Guests can contact the properties directly to ask for the “San Jose Cares” rate or visit the Team San Jose website for more information. 

“My deep appreciation to our hotel partners and Team San José for opening their doors with these very low “San José Cares” rates for our evacuating families,” said San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo. “Together, we’re showing that we are Silicon Valley Strong.”

San Jose offering space at their convention center's dock for firefighters 

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San Jose offering space at their convention center’s dock for firefighters

Cost-free homestays 

Airbnb is offering cost-free shelter to evacuees courtesy of the Airbnb Open Homes program. 

The idea for the Open Homes program originally came from an Airbnb host in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy hit New York and left tens of thousands of New Yorkers stranded. One of the company’s longtime hosts decided to offer her home for free to her neighbors who were forced to evacuate — and Airbnb was so inspired by her generosity that the Open Homes program was created. 

It is now an official part of Airbnb, offered to those who are seeking a medical stay, refugee housing, or emergency shelter due to a natural disaster. Anyone can sign up to become a host via Open Homes — all it takes is for interested hosts to create a profile on Airbnb’s Open Homes website, wait for a request, and agree on dates for visitors’ arrival. 

Right now the company is especially seeking to increase the number of homes they’re able to offer to evacuees of the Northern California fires, as well as working with their current host communities and local partners. 

The scope of the fires has created an enormous need for temporary housing via our Open Homes program, and we encourage anyone who is interested in opening up their homes to those displaced by the fires to visit Airbnb’s Norcal Fire housing website to learn more about how they can help,” said an Airbnb spokesperson. 

Lodging for furry friends 

Wag Hotels is offering complimentary boarding to furry friends affected by the wildfires burning across California. The organization is providing bedding, food, and 24-hour care for both cats and dogs of families who have been forced to vacate their homes and need somewhere safe to leave their furry family members. Pet owners searching for a safe place to house pets as a result of evacuations can contact 888-WAG-LINE or find their nearest Wag Hotels location at www.waghotels.com. 

Wag Hotels are offering a space for furry friends. 

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Wag Hotels are offering a space for furry friends.

Luxurious local locations to escape

Regional luxury properties are also lowering their traditional rates significantly for evacuees seeking more upscale accommodations to safely escape. 

The Meritage Resort and Spa. 

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The Meritage Resort and Spa.

In southern Sonoma County, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn is extending an evacuation rate of $199 per night — which includes family pets. In the East Bay, Claremont Club & Spa in Berkeley is offering a discounted evacuee rate of $189 per night, waiving pet fees for up to two animals and waiving resort charges. 

In Sacramento, The Kimpton Sawyer is offering a reduced rate of $149 per night for those in evacuation zones. The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa Valley is offering 30% off rates and waiving the pet and resort fee for evacuees of the Napa fires. The Brewery Gulch Inn on the Mendocino Coast is offering specific rooms for evacuees at half their normal price. These rooms are reserved for evacuees and cannot be reserved on the property’s website; interested visitors must call the inn directly at 707-937-4752 to book.

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