- The Northern California Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire near Malibu have collectively claimed the lives of at least 50 people as of Wednesday, and destroyed over 8,000 homes.
- Some prominent investors, like Redpoint Ventures’ Ryan Sarver and ENIAC Ventures’ Nihal Mehta, have responded by offering up their Northern California homes to those displaced by the fires.
- Airbnb has been able to facilitate the offering up of homes, as well, with over 2,000 hosts offering shelter across California through the company’s Open Homes Program.
- Other tech companies including Facebook, Google, Apple are doing their part to help as well.
California is on fire.
The Northern California Camp Fire has killed at least 48 people and destroyed more than 7,600 homes and 260 businesses as of Wednesday morning, making it the deadliest and most destructive fire in state history. The Woolsey Fire near Malibu, California has claimed two lives, forced 275,000 people to evacuate, and destroyed the homes of celebrities including Gerard Butler, Miley Cyrus, and Neil Young.
With so much destruction, so close to home – the Camp Fire burns around 150 miles from San Francisco, filling the city with smoke – the tech community has responded. Some have even offered up their homes over Twitter.
Venture capitalists, like Redpoint Ventures’ Ryan Sarver (formerly Director of Platform at Twitter) and ENIAC Ventures’ Nihal Mehta, have offered homes that they own in the area to those displaced by the fire.
#CampFire victims, we have a home in Sonoma we are making available to families in need of a temporary home. Please reach out if we can help.
— Ryan Sarver (@rsarver) November 11, 2018
— nihal (@nihalmehta) November 12, 2018
Airbnb has opened up doors at scale
Airbnb has been able to do something similar at a much larger scale.
The company’s Open Homes Program, which was created back in 2012 to assist with relief from Hurricane Sandy, allows hosts to offer up their homes to those displaced by the fires.
Airbnb told Business Insider that so far over 2,000 hosts on its platform have offered their homes to evacuees of the Camp Fire and Woolsey’s Fires. To date, nearly 1,000 evacuees and relief workers have been housed.
Kellie Bentz, Airbnb’s Head of Global Disaster Response and Relief, told us over the phone on Wednesday: “It’s always terrible, but also good for us when it’s close to home because it allows us to get a lot closer to the situation. In this case, we’ve been able to do that pretty quickly.”
This week, the company improved its mobile sign up process for evacuees and is planning on opening up a hotline by Thursday for those in need of shelter.
“We’re just trying to make it as easy as possible to book,” Bentz explained.
Bentz said she helped one woman book a home on Tuesday who needed to flee her Southern California home with her friend and three dogs.
“They were literally on the side of the road,” Benz explains. “The hard part about wildfires is, we call them ‘no notice events.’ Typically, it’s so fast moving. It’s hard to be as prepared as a hurricane where at least you have a few hours to pack up. With [the wildfires], people literally just got what they could and ran out.”
Facebook, Google, Apple have also responded
Facebook is helping as well.
The Menlo Park-based company committed to matching up to $US500,000 in donations made on Facebook to American Red Cross’ California wildfire relief efforts. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed with Business Insider that the match was met as of Tuesday, and in total, including the company’s matching contribution, the Facebook community has raised more than $US1.7 million for the American Red Cross.
Also, through Facebook Fundraisers – which the company announced on Wednesday had helped raise over $US1 billion – users have been able to set up campaigns to help those who have lost their homes and valuables.
One user, whose brother and 97-year-old grandma both lost their homes in Paradise, California, has helped her family raise over $US11,500 over Facebook. Another, who lives in Southern California, has helped raise over $US7,500 to provide extra supplies, like water bottles and snacks, for firefighters and victims.
The Google-owned mapping service Waze, is doing its part in helping where it can. Waze tweeted last week that it is working “around-the-clock” to make sure maps were updated with road closures, as well as shelter information.
Fires are unpredictable and fast-moving, but our map editor community is working around-the-clock to make sure that the map continues to stay up-to-date with Butte County closure and shelter info. Stay safe, Wazers. #CampFire pic.twitter.com/TGYOd8DGmi
— waze (@waze) November 9, 2018
Google.org has also committed $US500,000 in grants to organisations helping those displaced by the fires.
We are mobilizing to support those impacted by the #CampFire, #HillFire and #WoolseyFire with SOS Alerts, and committing resources from @googleorg to aid those in need. Our thoughts are with all those displaced by these fires.
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) November 9, 2018
Apple has announced, via a tweet from CEO Tim Cook, that it would be donating to fire relief efforts as well.
Praying for the safety of our neighbors, loved ones and all those affected by the rapidly spreading fires in California. We’re grateful to the firefighters and first responders working to keep everyone safe. Apple is donating to relief efforts for Northern & Southern California.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) November 9, 2018