Where To Go If You've Been Evacuated Because Of The California Wildfires
During wildfire season, people on the West Coast know in the back of their minds that they need to be ready to get out of town at a moment's notice. But not everyone knows exactly where to go if California wildfires force evacuations in their area, especially if they have just minutes to flee. Knowing your options beforehand can be crucial to guaranteeing your safety.
The fast-moving Getty wildfire prompted the emergency mandatory evacuation of almost 8,000 homes in the West Los Angeles neighborhoods of Brentwood and Pacific Palisades in the middle of the night on Oct. 28. Some residents told the Los Angeles Times that they had just minutes to get out as the fire approached. One of my friends living in the voluntary evacuation zone awoke to the smell of smoke and decided to pack his bags and head out of town ahead of what proved to be a traffic nightmare as road closures and evacuations clogged freeways.
And with so many people suddenly fleeing, hotel rooms were on short supply. Los Angeles Lakers basketball player LeBron James tweeted that after being forced to evacuate, he was driving around with his family looking for a hotel room, which they finally found after trying several places with no luck.
In a statement, Los Angeles Fire Department Spokesperson Margaret Stewart said residents can access the official fire evacuation map to see when it's safe to return home. Firefighters plan to work throughout the day to fight flareups and hot spots ahead of strong Santa Ana winds expected overnight, which could potentially fan flames of the 656-acre fire that's 5% contained.
In Northern California, the massive Kincade Fire, which began Oct. 23, 2019, continues to burn as residents brace for more mandatory power outages to reduce the risk of new wildfires. The more than 75,000-acre fire has forced thousands to evacuate in Lake, Napa, and Sonoma counties. You can find the most up-to-date evacuation information on the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection's website.
If you've been evacuated, and you need a place to go, here's where to find shelter from the California wildfires.
Airbnb Hosts Are Offering Free Housing
With hotel rooms full and many shelters at capacity, Airbnb hosts in the areas of the Kincaid, Tick, and Getty fires are offering free, temporary housing to wildfire evacuees. If you're an Airbnb host, you can head to the disaster relief page of the website to sign up to offer free housing.
Los Angeles Wildfire Evacuation Centers
There are several designated wildfire evacuation centers in the Los Angeles area. The LAFD said in a statement that residents and their small animals fleeing the Getty Fire are welcome at the Palisades Recreation Center and the Westwood Recreation Center.
In addition, Uber is offering free rides to select shelters for people evacuating because of the fires. To redeem the offer, enter the code CALFIRERELIEF19 in the payment section of the app.
You can find other available shelters for people and animals on the L.A. County's emergency page. It's been announced that undocumented immigrants are welcome at all shelters and that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) will not have access to any wildfire shelters. The same goes for Northern California evacuation centers as well.
Northern California Wildfire Evacuation Centers
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has created a resource page that will have the most up-to-date information available regarding shelters for those fleeing the wildfires. In Northern California, head to the Kincade Fire resource page to find out which shelters are currently available, including where you can take large and small animals.
Uber is also offering free rides to those evacuating to Napa Valley College, CrossWalk Community Church Napa, and the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
Hotel Discounts For Wildfire Evacuees
If you're looking for a hotel after being displaced by wildfires, the website Visit West Hollywood has compiled a list of hotels offering discounts to wildfire evacuees in the Los Angeles area. In Northern California, an NBC News affiliate reported that several hotels in Reno, Nevada, are also offering discounts to those displaced by the Kincade Fire.
The Hotel Council of San Francisco has compiled a list of local hotels offering discounts to Kincade Fire evacuees. In order to get a discount, guests must show proof of residence.
Long-Term Rental Assistance
For people who've lost their homes in a wildfire, the Rental Assistance through Individuals & Households Program (IHP) provides tax-free rental-assistance grants to those living in qualified disaster areas as a result of wildfires.
In order to be eligible for the program, the California Wildfire Statewide Recovery Resources website lists criteria that must be met. They include having no insurance or an insurance claim that's been denied, being or living with a U.S. citizen, and not being allowed to live in or return to your home.
Helping Stranded Pets Find Shelter
Evac-U-Pet is an app that activates a network of people who can help and potentially house animals that need to be evacuated during an emergency. It's currently available to iPhone and Android users in Los Angeles County, though there are plans to expand coverage in the future. According to ABC News 7, the app saved more than two dozen animals during the Saddle Ridge Fire, which started Oct. 10, 2019 and is now 97% contained.
For the most up-to-date information about the fires, including power outages and shelters, visit the Power Outage and Fire Recovery Resources page on the State of California website.