Country music fans step up to help Sonoma County wildfire victims

A benefit concert Saturday night at Epicenter in Santa Rosa was expected to raise $10,000.|

Santa Rosa resident Joanne Bartlett lost all of her earthly possessions when the October wildfires destroyed her Coffey Park house.

But the inferno couldn’t take her dear friends, who came to her support by giving her a house to live in with her husband, Byron. And it didn’

The two forces combined Saturday night when Bartlett attended a sold-out concert, courtesy of friends, featuring headliner Pete Stringfellow and other country favorites including McKenna Faith, to benefit fire victims.

“It’s wonderful,” said Bartlett, 71, as singer Lindsay Bruce, a Santa Rosa native, belted out the opening act. “The community has stood behind all of us. We can’t thank them enough.”

The concert at Epicenter sports complex on Piner Lane, just three blocks from the edge of the burn zone, drew about 200 people who each paid $45 to get in. Epicenter spokeswoman Lisa Alexander said the event was expected to raise $10,000 for the Sonoma County Resilience Fund, a program of the Community Foundation of Sonoma County that benefits fire victims.

The concert sold out within four hours after being announced on Santa Rosa’s country radio station, Froggy 92.9, DJ and program director Dano Weir said.

The station later got a handful of additional tickets that were snatched up for $100 a pop.

“It’s been an incredible response,” Weir said.

Before the show, state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, hopped on stage and led a live auction for a pair of tickets to see another show later this year with the band Little Big Town.

Two fans got in a bidding war, driving the winning price to $1,050.

“People are still struggling out there,” said Jessica Lichau of Santa Rosa, who walked away with the tickets. “People are still living in tent trailers.”

The October wildfires brought devastation to large swaths of Sonoma County, burning 137 miles, destroying 5,283 homes and killing 24 people.

Donations have poured in to pay for necessities like clothes, food and lodging. So far, the Resilience Fund has raised more than $11.5 million.

“The community has stepped up time and time again,” McGuire said.

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