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New Commuter Train Comes Through for Fire-Ravaged Santa Rosa

Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit (SMART) has been operating almost continuously at full schedule, collecting no fares since the epic wildfires began in Sonoma County on Oct. 8. Two stations in the fire-zone are shut down due to lack of access.
October 16, 2017, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Frank Fennema

North Bay residents greeted the new SMART train on August 25 with a grand opening celebration in downtown Santa Rosa. The diesel-powered trains returned the favor this week by providing free train service along most of the 43-mile corridor almost continuously since the fires began late Sunday night on Oct. 8, reports Mark Prado for the Marin Independent Journal. Service was initially canceled Monday morning but restored in the afternoon. [See image, taken by drone, of train operating through a neighborhood burned to the ground.].

We want to help out,” said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager. “We are part of the community. Any lost revenue is nothing compared to the hit the community has taken.”

Fares are zone-based, ranging from $3.50 to $11.50 for adults. On Monday, fares will be restored.

SMART’s operations center has been operating using generator power since the fire swept through the area and created widespread outages. The rail system has withstood the calamity quite well.

Train riders have been showing a sense of community on board the trains, observed Scott Mitchell, an engineer-conductor, 

There is a lot more conversation, people are talking to each other much more.  We even had some firefighters on who just wanted a break. We are trying to do our part,” said Mitchell.

The train has proved therapeutic for some. Riders who once kept a comfortable distance from their fellow passengers now engage and discuss the fires, with words like “escaped,” “evacuation” and “lucky,” punctuating conversations.

The two stations shut down are the northernmost on the line, Sonoma County Airport and Santa Rosa North. Watch a video taken from the train as it goes through a Santa Rosa neighborhood charred to the ground by the Tubbs Fire.

Trains terminate in Marin County at San Rafael Transit Station where riders can board a free Golden Gate Transit shuttle for a 10-minute ride to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal for a boat-ride to San Francisco

Northern California wildfires update: Climbing death toll, evacuations, structures destroyed

As of Saturday evening, the death toll from the many Northern California fires in eight counties, often referred to as North Bay wildfires or Wine Country wildfires as Napa and Sonoma counties are among the most heavily impacted, was 40, according to The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat.

Collectively, they are now the deadliest fires in state history. Individually, the Tubbs Fire, claiming 20 fatalities, is the third deadliest after the 1933 Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles and the Oakland firestorm of 1991 resulted in 29 and 25 fatalities, respectively.

"Currently more than 10,000 firefighters are battling 16 large wildfires that in total have burned over 214,000 acres," according to an Oct. 14 CAL FIRE report. "Approximately 100,000 people have been evacuated from the fires...and 5,700 structures estimated to have been destroyed."

Hat tip to MTC-ABAG Library.

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Published on Thursday, October 12, 2017 in Marin Independent Journal
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