New blaze in Ventura County threatens Reagan Library

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New blaze in Ventura County threatens Reagan Library
Nevada’s Three Lakes Conservation Crew digs a containment line on the Kincade fire in Windsor, Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. Max Whittaker/The New York Times.

by Tim Arango, Julie Turkewitz and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

LOS ANGELES (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- A fast-moving brush fire that was touched off early Wednesday burned its way to about 100 yards from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, forcing thousands to flee the area.

Police and fire vehicles could be seen surrounding the library compound in the morning, and helicopters flew low overhead, dropping water and fire retardant on the flames.

The blaze, named the Easy fire, began just after 6 a.m., which Mark Lorenzen, chief of the Ventura County Fire Department, said was “about the worst time it could happen” because of the strong winds and dry vegetation that was “ripe and ready to carry fire.”

Between 8 and 10 a.m., the fire tripled in size to cover 1,300 acres, putting more than 26,000 residents in evacuation zones.

California faced the worst kind of weather for wildfires Wednesday — strong, gusty winds and very low humidity. Officials feared that the gusts could blow embers more than a mile away, complicating their efforts to contain new or existing fires.

In the southern part of the state, the brush fire near the presidential library was not the only concern. In Jurupa Valley, a city in Riverside County, a small fire that began near Highway 60 mid-morning had consumed 100 acres and had no containment by early afternoon. In the Los Angeles area, a 745-acre fire known as the Getty fire has prompted the evacuation of more than 7,000 homes. Firefighters made progress overnight on the fire, which was 27% contained Wednesday morning.

“When you have a fire form in these conditions, it can spread very quickly,” said Lisa Phillips, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Los Angeles office. The combination of dry and windy weather, perfect for fires to ignite and grow, led the weather agency to issue an “extreme red flag warning” for much of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

In Northern California, firefighters made inroads battling the Kincade fire near Santa Rosa, the largest active wildfire in the state. The 76,000-acre fire is now 30% contained, up from 15% Tuesday, and forecasters were cautiously optimistic that winds would not strengthen again for at least a few days.

The threat posed by the winds had led Pacific Gas and Electric to cut off power to nearly 1 million customers in 30 counties in Northern California in recent days. On Wednesday, about 365,000 customers — roughly 900,000 people when accounting for shared addresses — still had no power. In the south, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison reported preventively shutting off power Wednesday to a total of about 200,000 people.

© 2019 The New York Times Company

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