Shifting winds challenge crews fighting California fire

Shifting winds challenge crews fighting California fire 4

Shifting winds posed new challenges for firefighters battling a blaze in Southern California coastal mountains that threatened ranches and rural homes and kept a major highway shut down for days.

The Alisal Fire charred more than 24 square miles (62 square kilometers) of dense chaparral in the Santa Ynez Mountains west of Santa Barbara. Containment was just 5% Wednesday evening.

While the scenic region along the Pacific shoreline is lightly populated, the blaze was a threat to more than 100 homes, ranches and other buildings, fire officials said.

Fire crews were protecting Rancho del Cielo, which was once owned by Ronald and Nancy Reagan and was known as the Western White House during his presidency. The 688-acre (278-hectare) ranch where Reagan hosted world leaders sits atop the mountain range, above the flames feeding on dense chaparral and grasses.

Based on staff reports from the ranch, the fire was about a half-mile (0.8 kilometers) away Wednesday evening, but that section of the blaze was not as active as others, said Jessica Jensen, vice president and chief of staff of the Young America’s Foundation, which now operates the ranch.

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