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story.lead_photo.caption Marco Alcaraz uses a garden hose to protect his girlfriend's home as the Easy fire approaches Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, in Simi Valley, Calif. A new wildfire erupted Wednesday in wind-whipped Southern California, forcing the evacuation of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and nearby homes, as both ends of the state struggled with blazes, dangerously gusty weather and deliberate blackouts. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — A wind-whipped outbreak of wildfires outside Los Angeles on Wednesday threatened thousands of homes and horse ranches, forced the smoky evacuation of elderly patients in wheelchairs and narrowly bypassed the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, protected in part by a buffer zone chewed by goats.

With California tinder dry and fires burning in the north and south, the state was at the mercy of gusty winds, on high alert for any new flames that could run wild, and weary from intentional blackouts aimed at preventing power lines from sparking more destruction.

The blaze near the Reagan library in Simi Valley was driven by strong Santa Ana winds that are the bane of Southern California in the fall and have historically fanned the most destructive fires in the region.

The library, which holds the presidential archives and whose grounds include the graves of Reagan and his wife, Nancy, was well-equipped when flames surrounded it. It relies on a combination of high-tech defenses such as fireproof vaults and a low-tech measure taken every year, when hundreds of goats are brought in to feed on the brush and create a firebreak.

An army of firefighters helped protect the hilltop museum, and helicopters hit the flames, leaving some neighbors resentful as they frantically hosed down fires in the surrounding subdivisions and open ranchland.

Armed with just a garden hose and wearing a mask, Beth Rivera watered down the perimeter of her large home to prevent embers from igniting the dry grass. Friends helped evacuate 11 horses from the property. The fire was only 30 yards away and blowing toward her house, with no firetrucks in sight.

Animals could be heard shrieking in a barn burning next door on Tierra Rejada Road, where large ranches with riding stables and horse rings line the road. Two horses bolted into the street from the flaming barn, trailing a cloud of smoke.

"Oh gosh, this isn't fun," Rivera said. "There isn't a fire unit (here) at the moment because they're busy working on the fire close to the library. This is why I'm very worried. Because I can't save my home."

Within minutes, a fire crew arrived to help Rivera and her boyfriend protect their home.

The brush fire broke out before dawn between the cities of Simi Valley and Moorpark north of Los Angeles and exploded to more than 1,300 acres, Ventura County officials said. About 7,000 homes, or around 26,000 people, were ordered to evacuate, authorities said.

Wind gusts up to 68 mph were reported in the area, forecasters said. Other spots in Southern California were buffeted by even stronger winds. The gusts knocked over a truck on a freeway in Fontana.

Another wildfire forced the evacuation of two mobile home parks and a health care facility in Jurupa Valley, 45 miles east of Los Angeles, where elderly people were taken out in wheelchairs and gurneys as smoke swirled overhead. The blaze was at least 200 acres in size.

Meanwhile, nearly 1 million people who rely on Pacific Gas & Electric were without power across Northern California amid the third blackout in a week imposed by the state's largest utility.

In wine country north of San Francisco, fire officials reported progress in their battle against a 120-square-mile blaze in Sonoma County, saying it was 30 percent contained.

The fire destroyed at least 206 structures, including 94 homes, and threatened 90,000 more, most of them homes, authorities said. More than 150,000 people were under evacuation orders.

Winds topped out at 70 mph north of San Francisco Bay and began to ease early Wednesday, but forecasters said the fire danger would remain high because of continuing breezes and dry air.

In Southern California, fire crews continued trying to snuff out a wildfire in the celebrity-studded hills of Los Angeles that destroyed a dozen homes Monday. About 9,000 people, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and LeBron James, were under evacuation orders.

No deaths have been reported from the recent fires, but toppled trees claimed three lives.

In the battle taking place in the dry hills around Simi Valley, 800 firefighters worked on the ground as helicopters precisely dropped water on the leading edge of the fire.

Firefighters successfully protected the library, leaving it looking like an island in a soot-black sea. Flames came within about 30 yards of the property, but there was no damage, library spokeswoman Melissa Giller said.

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