Oct. 30 (UPI) — A new brush fire started in the Los Angeles area early Wednesday near the gravesite and historical library of former President Ronald Reagan in Simi Valley, authorities said.
The flames began and quickly moved toward neighborhoods in Ventura County, which is located about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Strong winds fueled the blaze, named the Easy Fire, and led authorities to evacuate homes in the fire’s path.
Fire officials said more than 200 acres burned in the first hour. Its cause is unknown.
The Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, perched atop a hill in Simi Valley, opened in 1991 and spans 243,000 square feet. Both the former president and first lady Nancy Reagan are buried at the site.
The new wildfire adds to already heightened concerns statewide for numerous fires that have already destroyed homes, blackened thousands of acres and prompted mandatory evacuations in both Northern and Southern California.
The Getty Fire near downtown Los Angeles has burned 750 acres so far and is 27 percent contained, officials said in an update Wednesday. It began Monday and has so far destroyed 12 homes. Another 7,000 are in danger.
The National Weather Service issued the first-ever “extreme red flag warning” for Ventura and Los Angeles counties, which could see in the coming days the strongest winds so far this season.
“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 in a statement. The warning lasts until 6 p.m. Thursday.
“It takes one ember down wind to start another brush fire,” Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said. “I encourage all people in the city of Los Angeles, and the neighboring communities to register for alerts at NotifyLA.”
A motorcade carrying the casket of former first lady Nancy Reagan arrives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif., in 2016. File Photo by Jae C. Hong/UPI/Pool
Southern California Edison warned it could pre-emptively cut power to 304,000 customers Wednesday and Thursday when the most powerful winds arrive. Investigators say a falling tree branch started the fire.
In Northern California, the Kincade Fire has grown to nearly 77,000 acres, but is now 30 percent contained, officials said. That fire has destroyed dozens of homes.
Pacific Gas and Electric has cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers as a fire prevention measure. The utility said Wednesday, however, it scaled back plans to cut power in five counties due to favorable weather conditions. As a result, about 30,000 fewer customers lost power, it said.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said it’s investigating reports of looting in evacuation areas.