Former President Ronald Reagan’s ranch in Santa Barbara is under threat by a fast-moving wildfire in Southern California. A helicopter drops water on a wildfire Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Goleta, Calif. A wildfire raging through Southern California coastal mountains threatened ranches and rural homes and kept a major highway shut down Wednesday as the fire-scarred state faced a new round of dry winds that raise risk of infernos. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu) Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP

Raging wildfire threatens Ronald Reagan’s Santa Barbara ranch

Misty Severi October 13, 09:36 PM October 13, 09:36 PM

Former President Ronald Reagan’s ranch in Santa Barbara is under threat by a fast-moving wildfire in Southern California.

The Alisal Fire burned through 15,000 acres as of Wednesday. Flemming Bertelsen, the property owner, said the blaze is within a quarter-mile of the ranch, where he remains despite evacuation orders.

“We were expecting to get slammed by the fire running up-canyon on us, but amazingly, this unusual north wind kept pushing it away from us,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Four other employees remained with Bertelsen to help protect the ranch, which Reagan bought at the end of his second term as California governor in the 1970s.

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Winds gusting up to 70 miles per hour have made combating the fire more difficult, according to Santa Barbara Fire Chief Mark Hartwig, who said they expect to see a “seesaw” battle with the blaze.

“Onshore flow will push these fires up into these canyons and into structures that have been, quite frankly, been protected,” Hartwig said Wednesday, according to Deadline.

The ranch was called “Western White House” during Reagan’s presidency because he hosted world leaders, and it was his favorite retreat when not in the Oval Office, according to historian Paul Kengor.

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Leaders such as former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Elizabeth II are among its visitors.

Reagan, who was president from 1981 to 1989, died in 2004.

The ranch was sold to Young America’s Foundation in 1998 by the former president’s wife, Nancy Reagan. YAF said it is working with fire officials and members of Congress to protect the historic home.

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“YAF leadership is working with Congressional allies and other leaders who are offering their support in acquiring resources to help fight this fire,” the foundation said in a press release. “Over the years — with the help and leadership of our supporters, staff, and board members — we have taken extraordinary steps to shield Rancho del Cielo from this very threat. Protecting the Reagan Ranch from the threat of wildfire has been a top priority of our Board of Directors, the Reagan Ranch Board of Governors, and our entire team.”

The Alisal Fire comes during peak California fire season, which usually ends in November. The cause of this fire has not yet been determined.

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