Airbnb Hosts Give Free Refuge to Those Escaping Dark Night of Wildfires

Airbnb Hosts Give Free Refuge to Those Escaping Dark Night of Wildfires

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Ordinary… that’s how the evacuation day started for Patrick Diamond—yet, imminently, he would experience an extraordinary generosity among strangers in the AirBnb community who were gearing up to be angels in any emergency.

He was performing some menial tasks around his B&B inn when he came upon a Facebook post that reported the Blue Cut Wildfire was approaching the mountain town of Wrightwood, California

Within minutes he gauged that the fire was alarmingly close and began gathering files and items to carry, in case they needed to evacuate. He shot photos as the fire loomed closer, while fire trucks and emergency vehicles sped by at an increasingly ominous pace and a smoke cloud grew in the sky.

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He and the inn’s owner, Loretta, planned to evacuate to her daughter’s home in San Diego, but they soon realized the freeways had already been closed, along with all the feeder routes. At 3:30 in the afternoon, with the car packed for a fast escape, they received the reverse 911 call to evacuate, but there was no way to travel southbound.

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Photos courtesy of Patrick Diamond

“With our routes blocked and options limited, we fled, with the fire looming ominously in the rearview mirror,” Diamond told Good News Network. “We were very unsure of what would happen to the business and our home, as we watched what looked like a volcano opening up on the nearby mountain.”

Coincidentally, just two weeks earlier, Patrick and Loretta had signed up their B&B, Rhinestone Rose, with Airbnb’s Disaster Response Program, opening it to people fleeing a nearby fire. They had no clue, at the time, that they would be refugees in need of the same program.

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They contacted Airbnb through their online disaster response system, and were provided with a list of 14 homes in the surrounding area that had been made available for free to wildfire evacuees–and with a quick telephone call, the service secured a home for them courtesy of Arrowhead Retreats, which rents several vacation properties in nearby Lake Arrowhead.

The relief of being able to escape to a welcoming community was felt immediately as they began to ascend the mountain.

“It was great to know that we had somewhere to go and regroup… it made a very stressful situation much less so,” Patrick recalls. “Our hosts Jeanette and Grant Dunning made us feel even better.“

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Grant exuded compassion and understanding as he welcomed five different groups of people who were evacuating the fires that day–and he made sure they didn’t feel like they were imposing.

“The home we were given was beautiful. It had space for us to spread out and contact insurance companies, take care of business with canceling guest stays, and just plain relax without the fire looming over us. We had enough space that we were able to have other neighbors with nowhere to go come and stay with us too, so it helped more people than just us. Grant even was able to relocate us as we needed to stay longer than expected waiting for the evacuation orders to be lifted.”

Because he works in the industry, Patrick knew how much income was sacrificed by Grant and the other owners of homes who volunteered relief– likely thousands of dollars.

“It really had a massive impact on me,” he said. “I even went to local business owners as we shopped and told them what an amazing thing Arrowhead Retreats had done, in hopes they’d refer tourists who were looking for a place.

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Patrick had also forgotten to bring his bag of clothing, so he visited a thrift store in Lake Arrowhead. After realizing he was a fire evacuee, the shopkeepers went above and beyond offering discounts on everything he needed.

“The community really rallied around us, and it was touching.” said Patrick, who would later learn the fire had come to within 1,900 feet of the Rhinestone Rose Wellness Retreat, thanks to bulldozers pushing dirt into the fire and hotshot workers putting the fire out with hoses.

“All in all, the fire ended up being a great experience… The stress and drama was hard, not knowing whether or not our home and business would be destroyed, but the value of the experience came from the people I encountered and the compassionate, support, and empathy people showed.”

“Every disaster brings good, and I was glad to experience that first-hand!”

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