As crews make small strides to contain blazes around Sonoma County and surrounding areas, officials Friday morning announced that the Petaluma Municipal Airport will be utilized as a base for helicopters involved in firefighting efforts.

Airport Manager Bob Patterson said he received a call from CalFire shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday alerting him that the east side airport would be transformed into a helicopter attack base the following day. Between 12 to 20 helicopters from various agencies are expected to use the facility, he said.

“Our airport was the closest,” he said of its proximity to nearby fires.

The 601 Sky Ranch Drive facility opened around 7 a.m. Friday, and three helicopters are expected to land this morning, Patterson said.

The airport will be closed for an estimated 10 days to make room for helicopters, and some of the roughly 260 planes at the airport have been moved to pave the way for fire crews, he said.

This marks the first occasion Petaluma’s airport has been a part of such an effort, he said. The facility sees about 60,000 take-offs and landings annually, according to the city’s website.

The move is not indicative of a threat to Petaluma, city officials said in a Nixle alert.

As of Friday morning, there were no evacuation orders for Petaluma, though residents were encouraged to make contingency plans and be prepared should the situation change.

A red flag warning will be in place from 5 p.m. Friday to 11 p.m. Saturday because of increasing winds and low humidity, according to the National Weather Service.

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