Wildfire erupts near Reagan Library in California

Updated October 31, 2019

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LOS ANGELES: This photo from video provided by a television channel shows the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as flames approach California’s Simi Valley.—AP
LOS ANGELES: This photo from video provided by a television channel shows the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as flames approach California’s Simi Valley.—AP

SIMI VALLEY: A new wildfire erupted on Wednesday in wind-whipped Southern California, forcing the evacuation of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and nearby homes, as both ends of the state struggled with blazes, dangerously gusty weather and deliberate blackouts.

The brush fire broke out just before dawn in the Simi Valley area north of Los Angeles and grew to more than 400 acres, Ventura County officials said. They gave no immediate estimate of how many people were ordered to leave.

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.

Library spokeswoman Melissa Giller said the hilltop museum was safe. She said hundreds of goats are brought in each year to eat away vegetation that could fuel wildfires on the 300-acre (120-hectare) grounds, where Reagan and his wife, Nancy, are buried next to each other on a hillside.

Meanwhile, frustration and anger mounted across Northern California as Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the state’s largest utility, undertook its third round of sweeping blackouts in a week, hoping to prevent its electrical equipment from toppling or coming into contact with branches and sparking fires.

PG&E said Tuesday’s power shut-offs would affect about 1.5 million people in some 30 counties including the Sierra foothills, wine country and San Francisco Bay Area. They included 1 million still without power from a blackout over the weekend.

Across the darkened neighborhoods, people worried about charging cellphones and electric vehicles, finding gasoline and cash, staying warm and keeping their food from spoiling. Some ended up at centers set up by PG&E where people could go to power their electronics and get free water, snacks, flashlights and solar lanterns.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2019