Wildfire rages in Southern California coastal mountains

California Wildfires
In this photo provided by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a Cal Fire engine company provides structure protection to a ranch off Highway 101 Guillermo Canyon, south of Gaviota State Beach on Oct. 12, 2021. Photo credit Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — 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 the risk of infernos.

The Alisal Fire covered more than 24 square miles (62 square kilometers) in the Santa Ynez Mountains west of Santa Barbara, and the number of firefighters was nearly doubled to 1,300, with more on the way. Containment remained at 5%.

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 late Wednesday morning, 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.

“We are thankful that there has been no fire activity on the actual Reagan Ranch property. The Ranch, itself, is still in a very defensible position,” Jensen said in an email to The Associated Press.