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Chimney Fire containment expected by Sept. 3

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After incinerating 49 houses and 46,344 acres of land around Lake Nacimiento, the once untamable Chimney Fire finally appears to be petering out.

On Aug. 31, Cal Fire announced that the nearly three-week-old blaze was 85 percent contained, reported minimal spread in recent days, and estimated that the fire would be fully contained by Sept. 3.

“We have no real active fire anymore,” said Jay Smith, a Cal Fire public information officer, on Aug. 31. “It hasn’t grown at all. That’s obviously very good news.”

The remaining “problematic” section of the fire is in the northwest area, Smith said, where hot spots persist in rugged terrain west of Lake Nacimiento and east of Ragged Point.

“Crews are putting out the hot spots and mopping up,” Smith said.

Cal Fire lifted all the remaining evacuation orders for communities around Lake Nacimiento on Aug. 29. Hearst Castle also reopened for tours that day.

In the Chimney Fire’s first two weeks, extremely hot and dry weather and erratic winds tossed the fire in unpredictable directions. Starting Aug. 25, a beneficial shift in weather, in conjunction with increased manpower on the scene, helped get the wildfire—the worst in the region since 1960—under control.

“It’s been a combination of everything [that has helped slow down the fire],” Smith said. “The weather played a role in it. We saw decreased wind activity and higher humidity. But ultimately, we are putting the fire out with boots on the ground.”

On Aug. 24, close to 2,000 structures were threatened by the Chimney Fire. That number was down to 10 on Aug. 31. Fire personnel on the incident also decreased by nearly half since Aug. 24.

As the Chimney Fire winds down, so does the Rey Fire in Santa Barbara County, which has halted at 32,606 acres and is 87 percent contained.

The Soberanes Fire, though, continues to burn through southern Monterey County. It’s burned 93,714 acres and is 60 percent contained as of press time. Fire officials say full containment isn’t expected until the end of September.

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