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More Homes Lost to Chimney Fire in SLO County

Calfire says 48 homes and 20 buildings have been destroyed by the Chimney Fire that has been burning since August 13 and is now one of the largest wildfires in California.

As of 7PM Wednesday night, the Chimney Fire has burned more than 41,000 acres and is still less than 40 percent contained.

Increased activity in the past 24 hours has led to more evacuation warnings for property owners in the path of the fire.

“The fire is basically doing what’s its been doing for the last several days, its burning to the north and it wants to hook to the east”, says Ron Oatman with Calfire.

More than 4,000 firefighting personnel from across the state and the country are assigned to the Chimney Fire that’s being fueled by decades-old dry brush.

“This fire has been challenging, we’ve had our challenges with the weather, but more importantly what has caused the problems for us are the fuels, that’s directly tied into the drought”, says Calfire/San Luis Obispo County Fire Department Chief Scott Jalbert, “these fuels that we’re talking about that are impacted by this drought are hampering firefighting efforts, and we’re seeing fire behavior that we wouldn’t see in a normal season.”

Hearst Castle in San Simeon remains threatened by the Chimney Fire.

“The fire is about two miles away from that location, we have crews on the ground and in the air that are hitting it really hard”, Chief Jalbert says, “we are cautiously optimistic that we’re going to be able to hold the fire to where its at.”

Central Coast Congresswoman Lois Capps joined Chimney Fire incident commanders and other county leaders at a press conference Wednesday afternoon on the massive firefighting effort.

“This community has reached out, and will continue to do so”, Capps said, “when I say community I mean every level, including the federal level, and that’s why I am here today, to signal that support.”

San Luis Obispo County Supervisors Frank Mecham and Board of Supervisors Chair Lynn Compton also voiced appreciation for the firefighting operation and support for those who’ve lost homes and property to the fire.

“My compliments to all who are involved in this, they are doing a great job, and they’ll get this taken care of”, Mecham said, “I have to tell you the coordinated effort that we’ve experienced here is amazing.”

“The Board has approved a resolution to waive the building and permit fees for those who’ve lost their homes and property in the Chimney Fire”, Compton said, “as Chairman of the Board I can assure you we are going to do everything we can to assist those of you affected by the fire.”

Another county official says its too early to know if federal or state financial relief, such as help from FEMA, will be available to those who’ve lost homes or property.

“The first step homeowners should do is contact their insurance company and that’s going to be the first line of defense is insurance”, says Ron Alsop with San Luis Obispo County Office of Emergency Services, “we’re hoping that all or at least most of these folks had insurance, that’s the first line of defense, FEMA assistance or any other assistance does not take the place of insurance, so we encouraging people to contact their insurance providers as soon as possible.”

The cause of the Chimney Fire remains under investigation, fire officials announced Wednesday morning they do not believe the fire was intentionally set.

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