Ronald Reagan Presidential Library escapes damage from Easy Fire amid 'extreme red flag warning'
Mandatory evacuations were ordered Wednesday morning in Southern California as a rapidly moving wildfire ignited and burned in Simi Valley, near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library -- but the library's importing of hundreds of goats to eat nearby vegetation may have helped keep the building shining -- and not flaming -- on a hill.
The Ventura County Fire Department said the so-called Easy Fire was reported around 6 a.m. in the 200-block of West Los Angeles Avenue located near the 118 Freeway and Madera Road in Simi Valley, located northwest of Los Angeles.
The blaze was initially reported at 15 acres and started in an area near power lines before rapidly spreading to around 1,300 acres and being pushed by ferocious Santa Ana winds, according to fire officials.
‘EXTREME RED FLAG WARNING' IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AS WIND GUSTS UP TO 80 MPH MAY FUEL WILDFIRES
The Ventura County Fire Department issued a mandatory evacuation for an area that included the Reagan Library as flames appeared to be burning mostly vegetation north of the library, located close to some residential areas. Some 6,500 homes were threatened by the blaze, according to fire officials.
A spokesperson from the Reagan Library told Fox News the hilltop library will be closed Wednesday due to the conditions created by the blaze. Firefighters and trucks surrounded the library, with protection measures taken on the Air Force One-side of the facility, according to a spokesperson.
Reagan Library Executive Director John Heubusch told FOX11 the blaze was "circling the library" and that fire crews were "fighting it as best they can."
"It's the closest this library has ever come to this danger," he told FOX11. "So this is really serious stuff. So far, they seem to be on top of it."
Reagan Presidential Library spokeswoman Melissa Giller told the Associated Press the fire came within about 30 yards of the complex, but the building has been protected by aerial water drops and a firebreak, a gap of cleared vegetation that functions as a barrier to stop wildfires.
Giller told the AP the portion of the library housing archives faces away from the fire.
Giller added that hundreds of goats are brought in each year to the library grounds as a fire prevention method so they can eat away vegetation that can fuel wildfires on the undeveloped portions of the 300-acre property.
All Simi Valley public schools and schools in Moorpark were closed due to the blaze, FOX11 reported. Horses are being evacuated from small ranches in the hills between suburban tracts.
Large flames could be seen moving up hills, fanned by high winds through sparsely populated areas. Aircraft dropped water and fire retardant on the blaze, and fire officials said the flames were being pushed away from the library by strong Santa Ana winds blowing from inland California toward the coast.
The National Weather Service has issued a rare "extreme red flag warning" from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 6 p.m. Thursday for much of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties due to the Santa Ana wind event that "could be one of the strongest of recent memory." A combination of gusts up to 80 mph in mountains and some valleys with humidity levels in the single digits may lead to "a remarkable and dangerous event" across Southern California before conditions improve.
"Fortunately, this is the last day but this is also the most dangerous day where we think those Santa Ana winds are going to be ferocious," Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean said on "Fox & Friends."
GETTY FIRE SPARKED BY FALLING TREE BRANCH ON POWER LINES, OFFICIALS REVEAL
Dean said the conditions are "ripe" for wildfire danger because of "extraordinarily dry" conditions with very low humidity and gusty winds.
"This all adds up to an extreme fire weather threat, meaning that conditions are as dangerous for fire growth and behavior as we have seen in recent memory," the NWS said "Use extreme caution with any potential ignition sources, and residents in high fire risk areas should be ready and set to evacuate if emergency officials say so."
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As of Wednesday morning, California has 11 active wildfires that Cal Fire considers significant, according to Cal Fire. The past week has seen a particular uptick in blazes as high winds and low humidity across the state have led to explosive growth.
Fox News' Donald Fair in Los Angeles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.