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Progress Made Against Blue Cut Fire, Another Blaze Nears Hearst Castle

AUG. 19: 80,000 Forced to Abandon Their Homes as California Wildfires Spreads 1:57

Firefighters in California made more progress Saturday containing a massive wildfire in San Bernardino County Saturday, while another fire elsewhere in the state burned near the historic Hearst Castle, officials said.

The so-called Blue Cut Fire burning in the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County since Tuesday has scorched 37,020 acres — or more than 57 square miles — by Saturday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire.

Image:
Scorched cars and trailers burned by the Blue Cut fire line a residential street in Phelan, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. Noah Berger / AP

But the fire was 68 percent contained, Cal Fire said, and mandatory evacuations for the town of Wrightwood were downgraded to voluntary Saturday afternoon.

No deaths have been reported but at last 96 homes were destroyed, Cal Fire said. Mandatory evacuation orders had covered more than 82,000 people at one point.

But the so-called Chimney Fire in San Luis Obispo County was still burning and reached a ridge about three miles away from the landmark Hearst Castle Saturday morning, NBC affiliate KSBY reported.

Firefighters told the station winds were pushing the fire north and officials were hopeful it would move away from the estate.

The mansion, which was built at the commission of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst to house his art collection, was closed to the public Saturday due to the wildfire, the California Department of Parks and Recreation said in a statement.

State Parks supervising ranger Robert Chambers told The Associated Press he couldn't recall a time when Hearst Castle closed because of a wildfire.

"A fire has never come this close before," Chambers told the AP.

The "Casa Grande" at Hearst Castle, the legendary home built by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst in San Simeon, Calif. is seen in this photo taken on Sept. 2, 2008. DAN STEINBERG / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Park officials told KSBY it has a fire emergency and management plan in place to protect the estate. The parks department said it would monitor fire conditions to determine when it would reopen.

The Chimney Fire has been burning since Aug. 13. The fire grew to around 19,900 acres, or 31 square miles, by Saturday night — up from around 15,400 acres earlier in the day — and the blaze was 35 percent contained, Cal Fire said. The fire has destroyed 46 structures so far.

Heart Castle was designed and constructed from 1919 to 1947. It was landmarked and opened to the public for tours in 1958. The mansion, which has 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.