Wildfire nears ‘Western White House’ in California

SOLVANG (AP) — A major coastal highway remained closed yesterday and evacuation orders were in place from a growing blaze driven by intense winds that raised the risk of wildfires in much of California.

More than 200 firefighters battled the Alisal Fire, which covered 54 square kilometres along coastal Santa Barbara County and was only five per cent contained, county fire officials said.

The fire was burning near Rancho del Cielo, which was once owned by Ronald and Nancy Reagan and was known as the Western White House during his presidency. Fire crews were protecting the ranch where Reagan hosted world leaders.

The fire erupted on Monday on a ridge and swept toward the ocean, forcing the closure of US 101, the only major highway on that section of the coast. Evacuation orders and warnings were in place for ranches and several rural communities.

While the area was lightly populated, the blaze threatened more than 100 homes, ranches and other buildings, fire officials said. “The fire is burning in dense chaparral and is being pushed by strong winds and growing at a rapid rate of speed,” a fire update said on Tuesday, when gusts reached 113kph in some areas.

The fire was burning near Rancho del Cielo, which was once owned by Ronald and Nancy Reagan and was known as the Western White House during his presidency. Fire crews were protecting the ranch where Reagan hosted world leaders.