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Sonoma County airport in Santa Rosa closed due to wider evacuations from Kincade fire

The regional airfield north of Santa Rosa remains closed to all flights after shutting down Saturday night.|

As the Kincade fire continued to grow northeast of Geyserville, Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County airport halted all flights, part of a broader regional trend that has seen several agencies cancel or cut back service.

The airport north of Santa Rosa halted flights about 8 p.m. Saturday after mandatory evacuations began in the area, said Sonoma County Airport Manager Jon Stout. The decision forced the cancellation of the day’s final flight, United Airlines’ 9:30 p.m. route from San Francisco.

On Sunday morning, nine of the airport’s 15 daily departures and eight of its arrivals were canceled, and private jets also were barred from taking off. By noon, the remainder of the day’s flights were called off, and the same was expected through at least Monday afternoon, said Stout.

The last time airport officials took the rare step of closing down the airport was during the October 2017 North Bay firestorm. Passengers holding tickets for Monday are encouraged to contact their airline to reschedule flights into Santa Rosa for another day or to be rerouted to the airports in San Francisco, Oakland or San Jose.

The airport did not lose power as part of PG&E’s most recent planned shut-off, which started Saturday and was expected to affect about 256,000 customers in the North Bay among nearly 1 million across Northern California. If smoke clears and visibility returns, that could factor into the airport reopening as soon as the evacuations are lifted.

“If the wind dies down and they lift the evacuation order, some of those flights could resume,” Stout said. “It’ll depend on the evacuation orders and how the current fire situation is going.”

The airport’s closure was part of a broader regional trend that saw transportation agencies greatly cut back or cancel service.

SMART canceled all trains through Monday because PG&E’s shutdown has affected many traffic signals along the 43-mile line. The agency had crews out evaluating signals and tracks, in addition to a number of downed trees from the forceful winds.

Santa Rosa CityBus opted to suspend operations through Monday in hopes of restoring partial service Tuesday, while Sonoma County Transit opted to cancel buses for both Sunday and Monday to divert resources toward transporting evacuees to safe shelter. Petaluma Transit expects some delays, but is offering free rides on its regular bus service during the countywide emergency.

Sonoma County Airport Express routes to the airports in Oakland and San Francisco were unchanged, as were the Marin Airporter runs to SFO from the power outage across 99% of Marin County. Golden Gate Transit provided some drivers for the evacuation effort, with bus service terminating at the Santa Rosa Transit Mall rather than at the depot at Piner Road and Industrial Drive because of its location in an evacuation zone.

The multicounty bus service will operate on a limited schedule on Monday.

Meanwhile at the Sonoma County airport, where Cal Fire operates one of its 13 air attack bases, the agency’s massive tankers are using the base to restock on fire retardant before heading back to the firefight in the northern reaches of the county.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office is also using the local airfield for its Henry 1 helicopter, as is REACH Air Medical services during the emergency. California’s Air National Guard may also look to use the airport for operations.

It’s not yet clear when the airport may reopen to commercial traffic.

“It’s an inconvenience for the roughly 1,900 passengers flying in and out today,” Stout said Sunday.

“On the revenue side, it’s not that significant between some parking, some rental cars and some airline fees. But given what’s going on, that’s very minor.”

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.

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