New wildfire forces evacuation of Reagan Presidential Library

A fresh wildfire is burning on a ridge near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California’s Simi Valley city, forcing officials to order evacuations of the library and nearby homes and close schools.

Firefighting aircraft were dropping liquid in the area in a bid the stop the fire, CNN’s Bill Weir reported from the scene.

“The flames are licking right up the hills, right up to the parking lot,” library Executive Director John Heubusch told CNN affiliate KLTA. “I think the parking lot will save the library.”

Named the Easy Fire, the blaze — one of several California wildfires burning in dry and windy conditions — began Wednesday morning in the hills near Simi Valley and already has burned 972 acres, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

View the latest updates on the California fires

Aerial video from CNN affiliate KABC showed a long line of fire burning on a ridge in the hillsides, parts of which were near the library and a residential neighborhood. Thick smoke rose from the flames.

Simi Valley police ordered evacuations of the library — which also hosts the graves of the nation’s 40th president and first lady Nancy Reagan — and homes along a few nearby streets, police watch commander Adam Darough said.

A skeleton library staff — including security workers, the library director, the facility manager, and the head curator — remained at the facility, trying to protect what they can, including artifacts and photographs, library spokeswoman Melissa Giller said.

Giller said a “fire break” area — a zone where vegetation has been eaten up by goats that the county fire department brings in yearly for that purpose — exists between the library property and the fire.

“We feel really safe. I know the way the winds are shifting, fire is unpredictable and it is moving very quickly but … if the flames do crest, the fire break exists,” Giller said.

The library houses Reagan’s presidential and California gubernatorial records, as well as the couple’s personal effects, including most of Nancy Reagan’s dresses dating back to the 1950s and her wedding ring.

The Simi Valley Unified School District closed all schools Wednesday because of the fire threat.

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