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Chimney Fire Smoke Threatening Hearst Castle Art Collection

SAN SIMEON (CBS SF) – A wildfire continued to rage on the California Central Coast Monday with dense smoke from the blaze posing a threat to the art collection housed at the iconic Hearst Castle and forcing the tourist attraction to be closed to the public.

Overnight, the fire challenged control lines, according to Cal Fire. The blaze was burning through the Rock Butte area and into Monterey County west of Lake San Antonio. Winds could be a really problem on Monday as they are forecasted to grow to gusts of 20 mph.

The fire has destroyed 48 structures, damaging 7 others and had grown to more than 31,000 acres -- nearly 50 square miles. It was just 35 percent controlled by Monday morning.

Spokesman Bud Englund said the Chimney Fire was threatening Bryson Hesperia – one of many communities evacuated as the fire has advanced.

In San Luis Obispo County, Cal Shasta, Rancho del Lago, South Shore Village, Christmas Cove, and Oak Shores have also been evacuated.

The fire started at 4:05 p.m. Aug. 13 at Running Deer and Chimney Rock roads south of Lake Nacimiento, Cal Fire officials said.
About 330 structures are threatened. The fire is burning about two miles from the Hearst Castle, which is a National Historic Landmark.

Englund said the fire doesn't pose much of the threat to the castle building.

"Smoke damage to the art would be more of the concern," Englund said. "That would be the biggest concern when it comes to the Hearst Castle."

William Randolph Hearst was an avid art collector and the popular tourist destination houses many of those works.

State Parks Official Dan Falat said plans are in place if fire changes direction and the collection needs to be moved to safety.

"The plan right now is to shelter in place," he said. "But we are constantly updating our plans. If we have to move the collection, there is a contingency plan in place."

Falat said the Castle and its surrounding memorial is built of mostly concrete.

"It was built in fire and earthquake country," he said. "It is build to withstand this."

The Hearst Castle is closed until further notice because of the fire, according to the landmark's website.

Cal Fire also issued a warning to San Luis Obispo and Monterey County residents to beware of solicitations for donations.

Officials said Cal Fire does not solicit donations. If you were contacted, please attempt to secure the caller's name and contact number. Please report this information to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office at (805) 781-5800.

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