Powered by the strongest Santa Ana gusts of the season, with mountaintop wind speeds in Los Angeles peaking at around 70 miles per hour, a high-fire-risk day was expected for Wednesday in Southern California. To prepare, the National Weather Service issued an “extreme red flag” warning, a label that meteorologists told the Los Angeles Times “they can’t remember even using.”
Around 6 a.m., a brush fire in Simi Valley — about 30 miles north of Malibu — broke out; within four hours, the Easy Fire was threatening 7,000 homes and had grown to around 1,300 acres. By the early afternoon, 1,000 buildings were threatened by the fire, and 26,000 Ventura County residents were under evacuation orders.
Like other L.A.-area blazes in recent years that have threatened notable California landmarks including the Getty Center and Kanye West’s house, the Easy Fire was soon encroaching on the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The largest presidential library in the nation sits on a hill covered in heavy brush, which is managed in part by a herd of hundreds of goats employed to minimize the vegetation that could fuel wildfires.
Ventura County fire chief Mark Lorenzen noted that flames got within 50 feet of the buildings, though firefighters were able to prevent any damage thanks to multiple airdrops and built-in firebreaks. The Easy Fire did get close enough to be seen from the glass-encased pavilion housing Reagan’s presidential plane, providing another image of the eerie, untenable balance of exurban life in Southern California as the fire season become a full-year event.
Though multiple fires were burning in the Los Angeles area on Wednesday, the 2019 fire season has remained a relatively light one thanks to a late onset. Though over 5,000 wildfires had been reported through October 27, total damage from this fire season is expected to be a tenth of the 2018 total.