Major highway closed by wind-whipped California wildfire

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A major Southern California highway remained closed Wednesday and evacuation orders were in place from a growing blaze driven by intense winds that raised the risk of wildfires in much of the state.

More than 200 firefighters battled the Alisal Fire, which covered 21 square miles along coastal Santa Barbara County and was only 5 per cent contained, county fire officials said.

The fire erupted Monday on a ridge and swept toward the ocean, forcing the closure of US 101, the only major highway on that section of the coast. Evacuation orders and warnings were in place for ranches and several rural communities of the lightly populated region.

While the area was lightly populated, the blaze threatened more than 100 homes, ranches and other buildings, fire officials said.

“The fire is burning in dense chaparral and is being pushed by strong winds and growing at a rapid rate of speed,” a fire update said Tuesday, when gusts reached 70 mph in some areas.Firefighters extinguish a roadside fire in Goleta (AP)© Provided by Evening Standard Firefighters extinguish a roadside fire in Goleta (AP)

The fire was burning a few miles from near Rancho del Cielo, which was once owned by Ronald and Nancy Reagan and was known as the Western White House during his presidency. Fire crews were protecting the ranch where Reagan hosted world leaders.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declared a local emergency and asked Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency that would free up state resources for firefighters and evacuees.

In Northern California, fire crews increased containment of a blaze that destroyed 25 mobile homes, 16 RVs and a park building at the Rancho Marina RV Park in Sacramento County.

No injuries were reported, and the cause remained under investigation.

To the south in San Joaquin County, a man suffered burns and about five mobile homes were damaged by flames that raced through the Islander Mobile Home Park, Lathrop-Manteca Fire Chief Josh Capper told Fox40-TV.

The injured man suffered severe third-degree burns over most of his body, Capper said.

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