Correction: A previous version of this article stated that a mobile home park in Rohnert Park had been destroyed by the fire, however, the RP mobile home parks remain intact, none were harmed and the mobile home parks are OK. The voluntary evacuations have been lifted in RP. The park that was destroyed was Santa Rosa's Journey's End Mobile Home park.
A large 35,000 acre brush fire that started late Sunday night swept through at least five counties in the North Bay. Currently, there are no mandatory or voluntary evacuations in RP according to the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety.
Fires in Napa, Timber Cove -- north of Jenner, Sonoma and Calistoga, have contributed to the massive inferno that have also caused large evacuations throughout Santa Rosa, causing a stream of traffic gridlock as evacuees make their way south on Highway 101.
Firefighters say around 20,000 people in the area of the fires have been evacuated and at least 1,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed, according to the State Fire Marshall.
Several evacuation shelters were set up in areas of Rohnert Park for evacuees, with centers opening at the Burton Avenue Recreation Center and the Sally Tomatoes restaurant in the SOMO Village.
With local centers at full capacity and the fire close to RP being downgraded to being “under control,” around 10:30 a.m. Monday morning, Cotati and Rohnert Park police began directing people to evacuate south of Rohnert Park.
According to the Nixle report, public safety urged citizens to, “Seek shelter elsewhere,” due to, “fires actively burning east of Rohnert Park.”
While the City of Cotati faced no threat of fire, Cotati Chief of Police, Michael Parish, recommended RP residents take shelter at the Petaluma Fairgrounds.
“If people are to evacuate we are sending them to the Petaluma Fairgrounds that is the evacuation site,” Parish said.
Parish also explained there is a voluntary evacuation in place for Cotati residents who want to avoid the large smoke and ash fall and that earlier in the morning there was concern over a small fire near Cotati city limits.
“With Cotati, we’ve had no fires in our jurisdiction, we do have a voluntary evacuation… and we did have a fire in our in the county area of Cotati, but thankfully it got put out pretty fast,” Parish said. But in regards to the air quality in the area Parish said it is currently very poor. “It’s terrible, there is ash in Cotati because the fires are close to here.”
Santa Rosa evacuees have also been told to seek shelter at the Petaluma fairgrounds or the Santa Rosa Vets Memorial Hospital.
A third evacuation center has also been opened in San Rafael at the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium at Marin Center -- a building that can hold a capacity of 2,000 people.
Laine Hendricks, press information officer for the County of Marin, said as of their most recent count, the memorial center has seen about 315 people make use of their shelter.
“We’ve been opened and there have been evacuees from all over. We’re still expecting more people to come and use it,” Hendricks said. And since this particular evacuation center has no bed space, she said, “We’re looking at options for an overnight shelter.”
Amy Head, a press information officer for Cal Fire, said right now Cal Fire is focusing on getting people out of the danger zones safely first and will then proceed to work on fire containment.
“Our priority is safety and making sure everybody has been evacuated and is safe. Then, we’ll really start concentrating on the suppression efforts,” Head said.
In an effort to keep locals safe, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department also issued a report advising residents to remain indoors if safe to do so and offered up other important safety tips.
“Do not call 911 for general information, call 911 for unattended active flames or life-threatening emergencies. If you are safe, stay indoors and close the windows, stay off the roads, unless absolutely necessary, follow instructions from emergency workers and do not return until evacuation orders are lifted,” the sheriff’s report stated.
The swarm of fires started around 10:51 p.m. last night, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office reported via Nixle, that fires had started at Mark West Springs Road and Riebli Road in Santa Rosa and at Shiloh and Conde Roads in Windsor and at Highway 116. The main blaze started at Atlas Peak in Napa County and continued its path of destruction through Wine Country near Kenwood and Carneros.
With high winds of up to 50 in the Sonoma Mountains, Head said the strong winds and heat have been fueling this gargantuan fire.
“(The wind) is definitely what drove these fires overnight and what made them as large as they are so quickly. The winds have subsided a bit this morning, we’re hoping that continues and they are not that strong as they were in the overnight hours, but we do still have some red flag warnings in effect in the area so we will be watching that closely,” Head explained.
Fire experts have also been calling this infero a “dynamic” fire, which Head explained refers to the fire’s fast moving nature.
“We’ll hit it (the fire), from every angle with our crews, we are going to start getting our air craft up in the air to start building a containment line around the perimeter of the fire. So right now there is zero percent containment… but now we can start concentrating our efforts to extinguishing this fire,” Head said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Head, who also said Cal Fire is working on a count to determine how many responders are now on scene.
As of today, several Sonoma County school districts are closed indefinitely and Rohnert Park schools will be closed until Oct. 10 as well. School district closures provided by the Sonoma County Office of Education, lists the major districts that will be closed; Alexander Valley, Bellevue, Bennett Valley, Cloverdale, Forestville, Geyserville, Healdsburg, Kenwood, Mark West, Oak Grove, Roseland, Rincon Valley, Santa Rosa, Sonoma Valley, SCOE Alternative Education, Windsor and Wright.
Gov. Jerry Brown also issued a state of emergency late this morning.
The Proclamation for the emergency cites the level of destruction warrants the need for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency “... These fires have damaged and continue to threaten critical infrastructure and have forced the closure of major highways and local roads and extreme water conditions including strong winds have further increased the spread of these fires. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has granted Fire Management Assistance Grants to assist with the mitigation, management and control of the Tubbs Fire and Atlas Fire.”
Road closures include portions of US-101 from Steele Lane and Airport Boulevard, CA-128 at Tubbs Lane, SR-121 at Old Sonoma Road SR-37 all the way from US-101 to I-80. Golden Gate Transit has suspended sevice for the day, however, SMART has resumed limited emergency service, "with roundtrips from downtown Santa Rosa to downtown San Rafael," according to a press release
Further stories and updates to come.