UPDATE: Hearst Castle reopens, Chimney Fire evacuation orders lifted

Aug 14, 2016

UPDATE - August 29, 2016 at 5:17 p.m.

Hearst Castle reopened for tours Monday after being shut down for more than a week as a safety precaution in response to the Chimney Fire burning nearby. It came within a couple of miles of the historic buildings on the Hearst property. 

In addition, Cal Fire announced Monday that all evacuation orders were being lifted at 5:00 p.m. This includes evacuation orders for the Bryson Hesperia area of Monterey County.

All road closures will also be removed.

The Chimney Fire has burned 45,844 acres since it first broke out back on August 13. 

Cal Fire now said Monday that crews have 61 percent containment. The number of structures still threatened dropped over the weekend from more than a thousand to just 160.

The Chimney Fire has destroyed 49 homes.

UPDATE - August 26, 2016 at 5:37 p.m.

Containment of San Luis Obispo County's Chimney Fire was growing on Friday.

Cal Fire said the 45,000 acre fire was at 47 percent containment Friday morning, with cooler overnight temperatures and high humidity levels helping out fire fighters.

An even deeper marine layer was expected to develop Friday night into Saturday morning, with some of the coolest temperatures of the week.

The Chimney Fire started near Lake Nacimiento nearly two weeks ago and has destroyed 49 homes.

Investigators say they've ruled out arson, but say they're still looking into the exact cause.

UPDATE - August 25, 2016 at 5:54 p.m.

Some evacuations near the Chimney Fire in northern San Luis Obispo County were being lifted Thursday. 

Cal Fire said residents living in the Lake Nacimiento communities of Tri-County, Cal Shasta, Rancho Del Lago, and South Shore Village were able to head back to their properties at noon.

Evacuation orders and warnings remain in place for all other areas. Meanwhile the fire continues to grow in other directions.

Thursday morning estimates put the Chimney Fire at 43,633 acres and holding with 39 percent containment. 

UPDATE - August 24, 2016 at 7:07 p.m.

New evacuation warnings were put in place Wednesday for people living near San Luis Obispo County's Chimney Fire. 

The warning affects those living north of San Simeon Creek Road, including Van Gordon Creek, Keystone Mine, and Red Mountain Roads. 

Cal Fire said Wednesday night that the fire is burning within less than five miles of the homes. They're not in immediate danger, but should be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice.

Evacuation orders still exist for many of the communities surrounding Lake Nacimiento. 

Hearst Castle State Park is just a couple of miles west of the fire and remains closed through the week as crews work to protect it.

Investigators said Wednesday, they've ruled out arson as a cause, but have yet to say exactly how the Chimney Fire began.

The latest numbers put the fire at 41,675 acres and 39 percent containment.

The number of homes destroyed jumped to 48.

UPDATE - August 23, 2016 at 5:30 p.m.

San Luis Obispo County declared a local emergency on Tuesday in response to the Chimney Fire burning near Lake Nacimento.

This proclamation speeds up response time for County staff and partner agencies by streamlining the approval process necessary to obtain additional assistance and resources, according to a statement posted on the County's website.

The wildfire pushed past the 37,000 acre mark on Tuesday as firefighters maintained 35 percent containment.

Nearly 1900 structures remain threatened by the fire that straddles the San Luis Obispo and Monterey County border.

The number of structures destroyed grew to 52, with seven damaged.

Cal Fire said on Tuesday afternoon that a portion of Lake Nacimiento was being closed to all boating activity west of the lake's Las Tables arm.

UPDATE - August 22, 2016 at 10:26 a.m.

The number of structures threatened by the continually-growing Chimney Fire grew substantially over the weekend from a few hundred to nearly 1900.

The size of the fire also nearly tripled in size from Friday to and estimated 31,644 acres on Monday morning. Containment was listed at 35 percent.

Cal Fire reported that the fire was extreme and continued to challenge control lines Sunday overnight into Monday.

"The fire is currently burning through Rock Butte area and into Monterey County west of lake San Antonio," the fire agency said in its Monday morning Incident Update.

Evacuation orders affecting roughly 2500 people are in place for:

  • Cal Shasta
  • Christmas Cove
  • Rancho del Lago
  • South Shore Village
  • Oak Shores
  • Lake San Antonio
  • Bryson Hesperia

Cal Fire said Sunday that the actual number of people affected by the evacuation is hard to estimate because many of the homes are vacation properties.

UPDATE - August 21, 2016 at 11:53 a.m.

The Central Coast's iconic Hearst Castle was shut down this weekend to tours as fire crews worked to protect the structure from the encroaching Chimney Fire.

Self-guided tours had been canceled late last week, but on Saturday California State Parks pulled the plug on tours entirely and planned to continue to policy through Monday.

The fire moved to within two miles of the National Historic Landmark on Saturday. A large gathering of Cal Fire crews are stationed at the Castle with efforts in place to halt the fire's spread.

While the fire was spreading dangerously close to the state landmark on its western flank, residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Lake Nacimiento were again facing possible destruction of their properties as the Chimney Fire expanded to the north and east (see Sunday morning fire map above).

Lake Nacimiento resident Richard Coffey said Sunday that backfires were being lit to protect his neighborhood. After returning home from a rushed evacuation that turned out to be unnecessary, Coffey said he found a note from fire crews assigned to protect his home that they had put his "food back into your fridge."

As of Sunday morning, the Chimney Fire was listed at 24,096 acres with 35 percent containment.

The number of structures threatened by the fire grew over the weekend to 332. Cal Fire reported Sunday that 48 structures had been destroyed and seven damaged.

"Overnight, fire behavior remained extreme," Cal Fire said in a statement on Sunday morning. "Dry and drought-stressed tember, chaparral, and grass in the steep, inaccessible terrain continue to challenge control lines."

Evacuation orders as of Sunday included the San Luis Obispo County communities of Cal Shasta, Rancho de Largo, South Shore Village, Christmas Cove, Oak Shores and Bryson Hesperia — which is also partially in Monterey County.

UPDATE - August 18, 2016 at 11:04 a.m.

The Chimney Fire's behavior remained active overnight, according to the latest Cal Fire incident update on Thursday morning.

The official assessment shows the wildfire has charred 8,300 acres and is 30 percent contained.

Cal Fire said 32 homes and 13 "outbuilding-type structures" have been destroyed, an increase over the previous day.

Mandatory evacuations remained in place for the communities of Running Deer Ranch, Tri-County, Cal Shasta, Rancho de Lago, and South Shore Village.

Road access the the communities is closed at the intersection of Chimney Rock Road and Running Deer Road.

UPDATE - August 17, 2016 at 1:20 p.m.

Cal Fire reported Wednesday that the acreage burned by the Chimney Fire had jumped to 7300, with 25 percent containment.

Hot and dry conditions were expected to continue across the fire area on Wednesday.

To date, 30 homes and 10 "outbuilding-type structures" have been destroyed. Work by the damage assessment team is ongoing.

UPDATE - August 16, 2016 at 6:24 p.m.

A red flag warning was in effect Tuesday for the area around San Luis Obispo County's Chimney Fire as hot and dry conditions complicated fire-fighting efforts. 

Tuesday's numbers showed 6400 acres burned and containment remained at 10 percent.

There were 200 structures threatened, with 12 homes destroyed and 20 damaged.

Cal Fire is working with PG&E to assess damage done by the Chimney fire as it continues to burn just south of Lake Nacimiento in the Running Deer Ranch area.

Crews on Tuesday were working on containment lines while strengthening control lines already in place.

California State Parks shut down self-guided tours of Hearst Castle on Tuesday because of smoke from the fire. The park service says guided tours are still available. 

UPDATE - August 15, 2016 at 6:29 p.m.

Cal Fire updated the acreage burned in San Luis Obispo County's Chimney Fire to 5400 acres on Monday night. Containment stayed the same at 10 percent.

UPDATE - August 15, 2016 at 5:44 p.m.

Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency on Monday due to the ongoing Chimney Fire in San Luis Obispo County. The declaration will make it easier for funds to be allocated to those affected by the fire.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help with the situation. 

Crews battling the Chimney Fire faced more hot weather on Monday with conditions expected to stay the same through Wednesday, after which a slight cooling trend begins.

Cal Fire said Monday afternoon the number of acres burned stands at 4300 with 10 percent containment, but those numbers were expected be increase.

As of Monday, 12 homes had been destroyed by the fire and another 20 damaged.

Cal Fire's Bennet Milloy told KCBX that everyone who wanted to be evacuated had been, but some have chosen to stay behind.

"We hope they appreciate they've put themselves at risk and essentially fire fighters at risk," said Milloy. "Really they kind of do a disservice to their neighbors."

Milloy said fire crews will make extra efforts to protect a home where they know somebody decided to stay behind, and this can pull resources from protecting surrounding properties.

The fire has escalated to a top priority in the state, based on the number of threatened homes, which was listed at 200 on Monday.

The escalation brings in crews from other fires, which is what happened Monday as some of those fighting the Soberanes Fire near Big Sur headed south to the Chimney Fire.

Milloy said crews are operating on very little sleep as Cal Fire resources are stretched throughout the state battling nine separate large fires.

Original Story:

Some evacuations were completed this weekend, but other residents of Running Deer Ranch were faced with a 'shelter in place' alert, as San Luis Obispo County's Chimney Fire grew to an estimated 4000 acres on Sunday. 

The wildfire started Saturday and is burning southwest of Lake Nacimiento in mostly grass and drought stressed-oak woodlands. CAL FIRE San Luis Obispo reported Sunday on its Twitter feed that 150 homes were threatened and that some new evacuations were being "assisted by boat."

Fire crews were working Sunday to create access for sheriff's deputies to enter the area where residents were isolated by the fire.

Hot weather continued to be an issue for firefighters with temperatures hitting the mid 90s on Sunday and more hot weather expected on Monday.