SIMI VALLEY (CBSLA) — Fire crews successfully prevented flames driven by extreme gusts of wind from reaching the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the priceless memorabilia inside and outside of the 153,000-square-foot structure.
Crews worked tirelessly Wednesday as the fire encircled the property and employees and news media had been ordered to shelter in place.
Firefighters, along with aerial water and fire retardant drops, were on hand to stave off the flames.
As of 1 p.m., the flames had subsided near the Library and all that was left were some “smoking areas,” according to the Library spokesperson Melissa Giller.
“All those flames are completely gone and they’re saying the Reagan Library is completely safe again,” Giller said.
According to Geller, the last time flames had gotten as close as they did to the library was in October of 2003.
At around 6:30 a.m., security personnel at the library contacted the Library’s chief of staff to alert them fire crews were on the property and starting to evacuate the area.
Executive Director John Heubusch was one of the handful of employees on the property doing what he could to protect the contents of the Library. “We shut down all the ventilation systems. Hopefully, that’s holding and doing its job,” Heubusch said.
Giller told the Associated Press that it has been protected by a firebreak, created by a herd of goats which are brought in annually to eat the vegetation.
Embers from the fire were the biggest concern, but employees of the Library remained optimistic.
“You see this on television often and told how heroic these firemen and firewomen are. When it stares you in the face, that is the absolute truth,” Heubusch said. “These are just true heroes who are saving the largest and most visited treasure of the Presidential Libraries in the United States.”
One of the libraries curators described watching the flames encroach upon the library saying, “From a visual standpoint it looked as cataclysmic as any image you’ve ever seen, and we’ll remember this day, but the library came out of it pretty much unscathed.”
“That’s testament to a lot of preparation and a lot of planning,” he said.