SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) – A wildfire that raged in the coastal mountains of Southern California threatened ranches and farmhouses and caused a major highway to close on Wednesday as the fire-affected state faced another round of dry winds raising the risk of inferno.
The Alisala fire covered over 24 square miles (62 square kilometers) in the Santa Ynez Mountains west of Santa Barbara, and the number of firefighters has nearly doubled to 1,300 and are on the way. Containment remains at 5%.
Although the scenic region along the Pacific coastline is sparsely populated, the fire threatened more than 100 homes, ranches and other buildings, firefighters said.
Firefighters guarded Rancho del Cielo, which was once owned by Ronald and Nancy Reagan and was known as the Western White House during his presidency. The 688-acre (278-hectare) ranch, where Reagan hosted world leaders, sits atop a mountain range, above a flame that feeds on thick chaparral and grass.
According to ranch staff reports, the fire was about half a mile (0.8 km) from us late Wednesday night, but this patch of fire was not as active as the others, said Jessica Jensen, vice president and chief of staff. The Young America Foundation, which now runs the ranch.
“We are grateful that there were no fires on the territory of the Reagan ranch. The ranch itself is still in a very prime position, ”Jensen told the Associated Press in an email.
According to a conservative youth organization, the area has not burned since 1955.
The foundation said in a statement that fire engines have been installed on the ranch and fire retardant will be sprayed around its buildings. He noted that the helicopters flooded water from one of the ranch’s two lakes.
“Young America has emergency personnel and our fire suppression systems are tested and ready to go,” it said.
The crews also defended the Exxon / Mobil gas processing plant in a canyon surrounded by flames.
The fire broke out on Monday near the Alisal Reservoir, and strong northerly winds carried the flames down the mountains, forcing the blockage of US 101 in western Santa Barbara County. At some point, the fire stepped over the four-lane highway and reached the beach. The closure forced motorists to bypass smaller routes.
The highway may remain closed until the weekend, said Andrew Madsen, a spokesman for the US Forest Service.
Firefighters working in the steep, rugged terrain were aided by more than a dozen air tankers and helicopters, which returned to the skies in calmer daytime winds, Madsen said.
“The plane will probably be stopped this afternoon when the strong winds return,” he said.
The National Weather Service said a new round of notorious sunset winds in southern Santa Barbara County are expected on Wednesday night, and other parts of California are expected to face increased fire hazards as well.
Northern California hinterland warnings are expected to go into effect on Thursday due to gusts of wind and low humidity levels. Forecasters also planned to release the fire department on Friday weather in parts of Southern California due to the projected development of Santa Ana winds.
Pacific Gas & Electric said Thursday it may have to turn off electricity in certain parts of 13 Northern California counties to prevent wildfires from igniting due to wind damage to power lines. The utility has just restored power to some 25,000 customers who were cut off by Monday’s hurricane.
California bushfires have burned nearly 3,900 square miles (10,101 square kilometers) and destroyed more than 3,600 homes, businesses and other structures this year, according to the State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Historic climate change-related drought in the American West is making it difficult to fight wildfires. In California alone, he killed millions of trees. Scientists say climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.