Critical need for firefighter lodging

Thousands arriving on the Central Coast

SALINAS, Calif. - From the fire front lines to the Monterey County Emergency Services Office, firefighters from all across California are on the central coast because of the Soberanes Fire.

"Something over 31,000 acres...that's a big fire," said Toni Davis with Cal Fire.

To fight a big fire you need lots of firefighters, more than 4,000 so far.

Davis is like many firefighters, away from her home in the central valley and in a new place, but says the community and the hotels have been very accommodating.

"It's very nice to be thanked when you are staying at a hotel when they don't even know who we are but they appreciate us," said Davis.

However, finding a place to stay on the central coast, especially in the summer time competing with tourists, can be tough.

"We have been experiencing difficulties due to the fact of some of the local events that come into the area," said Cal Fire Captain, Paul Pumarejo.

Pumarejo works in the motel unit at the command center at Toro Park, he says because of the lack of local housing he is looking at booking hotels as far away as San Jose.

"It has an effect on their rest cycle," said Pumarejo. "We want to get them in climate control areas where they can be well rested."

Other fire fighters will sleep at Toro Park, but not everyone can do that.

So with the lodging struggle in mind, The Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce called on the hotels and motels that they represent asking them to hold rooms for firefighters and maybe even offer a discounted price.

Michael Wainscott, manager of Motel 6 in Salinas, heard that call.

"When the chamber of commerce reached out to us they say they facing $120 and $140 rooms charges," said Wainscott. "I wanted to make sure that they can go over, above and help them."

Wainscott was able to lower his rate down to about $74 a night and was able to hold 50 rooms just for fire fighters.

"At this rate, we just want to show our community involvement," said Wainscott.

Earlier this week our cameras were rolling when we met Martha Henry, a Seaside Airbnb host who is one of at least 12 hosts on the central coast offering up their homes free of charge.

Cal Fire, however, says they is too much liability when it comes to private rooms so they are only looking to book hotels.
Still, despite those long commute times to get to the fire, Davis says crews are still staying positive.

"We know there is a light at the end of the tunnel," said Davis. "We keep ourselves in good spirits even if it's just giving someone a hug if they need it."

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