Firefighters worked to save the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley from the Easy Fire, which burned precariously close to the museum and final resting place of the former president on Wednesday.
By 9 a.m., flames from the 1,300-acre blaze were surrounding the property, according to John Heubusch, the library’s executive director.
“It’s a pretty tough situation here, there’s never been fires this close to the library,” he told KTLA. “It’s a place of national treasure, and the flames are licking right up against it.”
The fire encroached upon the parking lot, but crews were able to beat back by the flames.
“Fire moved around the perimeter of the Reagan Library and we had successful stands up there on protecting the library and the infrastructure around the facility," Ventura County Fire Department Assistant Chief Chad Cook said at a noon news briefing.
He cautioned, however, that the grounds were still under threat, as was the entire area around the footprint of the fire.
Firefighters battled the flames from the ground and air, with helicopters making multiple drops.
“We had a very robust response with prepositioned resources," said Cook, who is the incident commander.
As soon as the flames started racing toward the library, strike teams were deployed to the area in an effort to protect it.
“It’s a whole lot of fire trucks, a whole lot of heroes out here protecting President Reagan’s library,” Heubusch said of the scene.
He expressed awe that helicopter crews were able to continue the aerial attack as powerful winds fanned the flames.
“They’re doing a heroic job,” Heubusch said.
The Reagan Library has been closed for the day and employees have asked to stay home as crews worked to protect the structure.
The library sits atop a hill, with only two roads leading in and out. The main road, Presidential Drive, has been shut off to traffic except to residents who live in the neighboring community of Presidential Estates, according to Heubusch.
A less-used back road is also closed.
Though the flames never reached any structures, library officials are checking the buildings and artifacts for any smoke damage, according to Randle Swan, the library's supervisory curator.
Nothing immediately appeared to be damaged, but assessments won't be completed for another 24 hours, Swan told KTLA in the early afternoon.
Precautions had already been taken to protect the many irreplaceable artifacts, which include speeches, signs, gifts and 65 million documents from Reagan’s time as president, library officials said.
Artifacts not on display in the museum are below ground in specified vaults with fire doors, according to Melissa Giller, a spokeswoman for the presidential library.
And everything on display is also protected by fire doors separating the various galleries, as well a sprinkler system, she said.
Air Force One is sheltered by a pavilion, which was a little wet from water drops, according to Heubusch.
The memorial site where former President Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan are buried is also safe, according to Giller.
She noted the library was built to protect itself from earthquakes and fires.
But precautions are taken to further ensure its safety, including bringing a herd of 300 to 400 goats each year to perform brush clearance along the hillside, Heubusch said.
KTLA's Kristina Bravo contributed to this story.
— mark mester (@mester_mark) October 30, 2019