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Wildfire Near San Luis Obispo Threatens Hearst Castle

SAN SIMEON (CBS/AP) -- A wind-driven wildfire in central California led to more evacuations and the closure of the Hearst Castle on Saturday.

Flames from the 8-day-old wildfire in San Luis Obispo County came as close as 3 miles to the national historic landmark, prompting California State Parks officials to cancel tours and close the grounds to visitors.

A wind shift caused the fire to cross a containment line in the afternoon, leading authorities to issue evacuation orders for several communities north and west of Lake Nacimiento, about 180 miles northwest of Los Angeles, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Mike Yuli.

The fire has burned 31 square miles and destroyed 48 structures since it began August 13. It is 35 percent contained.

Hearst Castle closes occasionally due to bad weather, but State Parks supervising ranger Robert Chambers said he couldn't recall a time when it closed because of a wildfire.

"A fire has never come this close before," Chambers said.

Chambers said the closure allowed fire crews to set up firefighting equipment to protect the hilltop estate. The visitor center, which is downhill from the castle, remained open.

Workers at the castle have spent several days cutting brush and putting in fire lines to create a defensible space around the castle, he added, and that a contingency plan is in place to move the large art collection belonging to media magnate William Randolph Hearst.

"We're not at the point where we need to move anything, our plan is to keep the artwork sheltered in place," Chambers said.

A popular tourist attraction along the Central Coast, the estate was conceived by Hearst to display his art collection. In its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, the castle was a playground for Hollywood stars.

© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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