Exclusive Photos of Ronald Reagan Ranch Threatened by Fire

Firefighters worked through Monday night and Tuesday to put out the fast-moving Alisal Fire in Santa Barbara County that threatens to destroy Ronald Reagan's historic ranch and artifacts.

Andrew Coffin, the executive director of the famed Reagan Ranch, told Newsweek he spent the night with three other staffers in sleeping bags in the former president's Secret Service command post, one of seven structures threatened by the fire.

The men have been hosing down the structures, testing sprinklers, laying out hoses and preparing fire hydrants for use should flames get too close. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, flames were roughly a half-mile away, according to Coffin.

reagan ranch fire
The Alisal Fire sends up massive amounts of smoke near the Reagan Ranch in this photo. Courtesy of the Reagan Ranch

As many as 15 engines were on the 688-acre property Monday night, though most had moved closer to the flames by Tuesday morning, he said.

The ranch was purchased in 1998 for $4.5 million by the Young America's Foundation, where Coffin is vice president. Coffin said Utah Sen. Mike Lee and California Rep. Tom McClintock, both Republicans, have reached out to offer moral support, but whether or not the ranch will be saved is up to hard-working firefighters.

"They've got their hands full," Coffin said from the ranch on Tuesday. "There's a whole lot of smoke and flames active, for the moment, on our western flank toward the ocean."

Regan Ranch Fire
Photo from the Reagan Ranch on Oct. 11, 2021. The ranch's existence is threatened by the Alisal Fire in Santa Barbara County. Courtesy of the Reagan Ranch

Coffin said he and his crew aren't yet intending to evacuate themselves or the artifacts, which include horse saddles, books, art, clothing and other artifacts owned by Ronald and Nancy Reagan, who purchased the property in 1974 and used its as their western White House during Reagan's eight-year presidency, hosting world leaders and other powerful guests there.

"The fire is burning on both sides of the road to the property. If it comes down to it, we will evacuate via an escape route that is an unpaved, rocky road. We'll use pickup trucks and a suburban vehicle," Coffin said.

reagan ranch fire
The Alisal Fire can be seen in the distance of this picture taken from the Reagan Ranch in Santa Barbara county. Courtesy of the Reagan Ranch

As of press time, roughly 6,000 acres have burned near the ranch.

"This is definitely the closest a fire has ever come to us," Coffin said, noting that a fire in 1965 also posed a threat, though that was nine years prior to the Reagan's ownership of the property.

"This is a national treasure, like Mt. Vernon and Monticello," Coffin said. "The ranch says a lot about President Reagan; his character and personality. He lived modestly in an 1,800 square foot home without air conditioning on an impressive 688 acres. He loved the trails, the vistas, riding horses and he worked the land, clearing brush."

The Young America's Foundation said in a statement that its "leadership is working with allies and other leaders who are offering their support in acquiring resources to help fight this fire."

Reagan Ranch near fire
On October 12, 2021, a fire threatens the famous Reagan Ranch. This photo was taken by staffers who spent the night there helping firefighters prepare their defense of the property's seven structures. Courtesy of Reagan Ranch

There are also two lakes with about 1 billion gallons of water on the property which can be used, as has been the case in previous fires in the area, by aircraft that scoop water and drop it on the fire. Thus far, other nearby lakes are being used for that purpose, Coffin said.

At 1 p.m. on Tuesday, the Santa Barbara Fire Department said the fire was "several miles" from the ranch, further than Coffin said it was three hours later. The department also said at 1 p.m. that the ranch "has good defensible space, and several USFS engines were arriving to provide structure protection."

Next year, American moviegoers will get an insider's look at the ranch as earlier this year a movie about the former president's life from teenager through his death, dubbed Reagan, filmed for a week at the ranch, both indoors and outdoors.

Fire near Reagan Ranch
This photo, taken from the Reagan Ranch on October 12, 2021, shows flames and smoke from about a half-mile away. The fast-moving fire is threatening the historically significant former home of President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan. Courtesy of Reagan Ranch