Thick smoke billowing from the Alisal fire near Santa Barbara triggered an air quality advisory for Los Angeles and several other counties, as flames from the blaze surrounded the former home of President Reagan’s vacation.
Toxic plumes from the blaze – which have now burned an estimated 16,800 acres – are expected to push southeast, increasing air pollution in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties at least Thursday after- noon, according to a special notice issued by South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Smoke conditions are expected along the south coast of Santa Barbara, as well as in coastal areas of Ventura and LA counties, according to the National Weather Service.
The fire that erupted Monday afternoon continues to keep a section of Highway 101 closed in both directions and has caused new mandatory evacuations overnight, according to firefighters. The fire is contained at 5% and still threatens around 120 homes.
On Thursday morning, flames had burned around Rancho del Cielo, the 688-acre ranch known as the “Western White House,” where Reagan and his wife Nancy hosted several world leaders.
Although the fire surrounded the property, no damage was reported, said Captain Daniel Bertucelli, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
“It remains at risk, but we have crews there,” Bertucelli said, adding that several firefighting equipment had been stationed near the ranch since the fire started.
The blaze remains active at the western and northern ends of the blaze, spurred in part by gusts of northerly winds, he said.
Along the eastern end, the burning area closest to the town of Goleta, the blaze burned the scar from the 2016 Sherpa fire, which slowed its growth, Bertucelli said.
Firefighters are prioritizing the reopening of Highway 101 and the nearby railroad tracks, which have been closed since the fire started.
There is no scheduled reopening date for either, with “decisions made solely on the basis of the behavior of the fire,” Bertucelli said.
Offshore winds blowing in the Gaviota area are pushing fire activity towards the highway, causing smoke outages, he said.
“So we can’t let motorists drive on the highway. It’s just not sure.