NorCal Racing

Sonoma Raceway hosts temporary RV shelter

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He does not own much, but Scott Blood carried a big smile this week.

The 54-year-old Sonoma evacuee strummed his banjo under the late morning sun on Friday, creating some noise in the otherwise hushed 50 Acres campground that Sonoma Raceway opened this week for fire evacuees.

“I lose all thoughts when I play instruments and forget about the ills of the world — jobs, money, all these things,” Blood said during a quick break from playing his instrument. “That’s kind of what I’m doing. When I’m playing, I don’t think of what’s going on and it’s kind of therapeutic. There’s a lot of people, including my friends who’ve lost everything — and I mean everything, except the clothes on their back.”

More than 50 recreational vehicles could be seen parked at the campground just outside Marin operating at no cost to those fleeing the fires. The campground, equipped to house up to 2,000 campers during major event weekends, was expected to remain open another couple weeks.

“We look like we’ll stay open to the 27th of October,” said Diana Brennan, vice president of communications and marketing at the raceway. “But it depends on the need locally. We’ll continue to evaluate that.”

Stockpiled at the campground’s entrance, evacuees were free to pick from bottled waters, toys, feminine hygiene products, boxed snacks and other supplies dropped off by passersby at the makeshift shanty town.

“We have all this land and we have services we can provide — we want to help everyone out,” said Michael Max, a Sonoma Raceway security guard overseeing organization of donations. “We’ve got family members and staff members affected by this. They need a place to live.”

Michelle Bachelder, 53, was speechless after her family of five, and their two cats, fled their Boyes Hot Springs home in Sonoma. Smoky skies, visible flames and a persuasive radio host prompted the family to pack up their RV and set off to the campground on Wednesday.

“There were a lot of ashes falling,” said Katie Bachelder, 26. “We just said, ‘We’re not going to risk it. We’re just going to get to safety.’”

It took the family two hours to make the normally 20-minute drive to the raceway, but it was made worthwhile by the venue’s generosity, the family said.

“I don’t think words can express it,” said Michelle Bachelder. “I think when times are at their worst, people are at their best — and they have certainly been at their best. They can’t do anymore than they’ve been doing. It’s absolutely amazing.”


The thought was shared by Renate Miller, 77, of Sonoma, who temporarily moved into her son’s trailer at the campground after being evacuated.

Miller said she grabbed some family heirlooms and was feeling safe at the temporary shelter.

“The traffic is nothing compared to how helpful they are,” Miller said of the raceway. “They’re the best neighbors you can have.”

Blood, one of few people using a tent at the campground, fled his Sonoma home after a mandatory evacuation. He said his parents stayed behind to ward off potential looters, despite warnings from sheriff’s deputies.

Sitting alongside his makeshift home, with his banjo still in hand, Blood said the rapidly changing situation was teaching him a little about who he was. He said it also shed some light on his neighbors.

“This is about where do people place their sentimental value if you had time to grab things — what would you grab? Everybody’s stories are a little different once you get the money, the credit cards, the animals, the kids,” Blood said. “After that, everybody’s stories are a little different.”

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