Firefighters have been working all weekend to keep the raging Chimney Fire under control as it makes a beeline for Hearst Castle. A spokesperson for Cal Fire tells the San Luis Obispo Tribunethat, as of late Sunday morning, the fire has grown to 24,096 acres and is about two-and-a-half miles from the historic home of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
So far, the fire has destroyed 48 structures and damaged an additional seven. Nearly 3,000 fire personnel are assisting in combatting the fire and have managed to bring it to a 35 percent level of containment. In addition to Hearst Castle, more than 300 other structures on California’s central coast are threatened by the blaze.
In response, the state department of parks and recreation announced Saturday that the castle would be closed for tours through the weekend. State Parks District Superintendent Dan Falat tells the Tribunethat staff has been working for most of the week to prepare for the event that the fire reaches the castle, putting in firelines around the castle and planning for the preservation (or emergency removal) of the massive art collection housed by the residence.
— CAL FIRE PIO Berlant (@CALFIRE_PIO) August 21, 2016
Built between 1919 and 1947 (and never really completed), the ridiculously opulent Julia Morgan-designed estate cost Hearst the equivalent of more than $500 million in today’s dollars. It served as his primary residence and the site of many of Hearst’s famously exclusive parties and social events. Donated to the state of California following the death of Hearst, the castle has been a historical monument and museum since 1958. The 115-room estate (not including an additional 46 guest rooms) also features around 25,000 works of art and—during Hearst’s lifetime—an enormous private zoo. Today, zebras can still be spotted roaming in the pastures around the castle.
The castle recently observed the 65th anniversary of Hearst’s death—just a day after the outbreak of the fire.
— KTVU (@KTVU) August 19, 2016