Bobcat Fire In Los Angeles Is Burning Within 500 Feet Of Mt. Wilson Observatory, Threatens Local TV And Radio Transmission Towers Worth $1B – Update

The Bobcat Fire Mt Wilson Observatory
The Bobcat Fire threatens the Mt. Wilson Observatory Mt Wilson Observatory

UPDATED at 1 p.m.: A tweet was just posted on the account for the Angeles National Forest saying the raging Bobcat Fire is within 500 feet of the historic Mt. Wilson Observatory. Yesterday, a tweet from the Forest Service said fire crews were seeking to protect the observatory and the the infrastructure around it with “strategic firing operations.”

PREVIOUSLY at 9:45 a.m.: “The Bobcat Fire is knocking on our door,” Mount Wilson Observatory tweeted about 9:25 p.m. Monday. “Fire officials predicted that the fire would approach Mt. Wilson from Echo Rock. It looks like they are correct.”

All observatory personnel were reportedly evacuated. Fire engines were in place near the observatory to try to protect it, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Firefighters battling the Bobcat Fire suffered a setback on Tuesday when the extent of the fire’s containment shrank from 6% to 3%, and they struggled to protect the infrastructure around Mt. Wilson as the wildfire was creeping closer to broadcast towers worth over $1 billion.

Every local network affiliate uses the towers atop Mt. Wilson to transmit their signals, as do PBS, Univision and KCET. At least nine local radio stations also use the equipment.

The Observatory and its environs have been the setting for many movies including Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige with Christian Bale, Edward Dmytryk’s The Young Lions starring Marlon Brando and Richard Thorpe’s Above Suspicion with Joan Crawford.

On Tuesday morning, the fire’s size increased to 41,231 acres with 3% containment, down from 6% the previous day, according to the Angeles National Forest.

“Crews worked all night to keep the fire from reaching Mt. Wilson and the communities,” the ANF tweeted about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. “Reduced containment is due to fire growth without our being able to increase containment lines.”

On Monday, the fire’s size was listed at 38,299 acres, and containment of the blaze fell to 3%. It had risen to 6% Thursday, then remained unchanged until Monday night.

Full containment of the fire, which will be achieved by way of cleared vegetation, was not estimated until Oct. 30, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Officials had earlier estimated full containment by Oct. 15 but revised that date on Sunday.

Abnormally dry vegetation has been fueling the blaze, leading to extreme fire behavior and rapid rates of spread.

“Strategic firing operations (backfires being set by firefighters) are taking place to protect the infrastructure around Mt. Wilson,” the Angeles National Forest tweeted late Monday night. “Firefighters are taking advantage of favorable weather conditions. Crews and equipment will be staffing the Bobcat Fire” through the early morning hours.

About 7:35 a.m. Tuesday, someone apparently still at the observatory tweeted: “The observatory boundaries are still secure at this time and we have 12 companies of professionals from @LACOFD intending to keep it that way. It’s shaping up to be a good day for aerial action, too.”

The Arcadia Fire Department announced crews were “very successful and productive in keeping the fire front away from Arcadia homes. No homes have been damaged or impacted by fire. The evacuation order is still in effect.”

The fire crossed the contingency line Monday afternoon and started burning on the ridge line above the east side of Little Santa Anita Canyon, the U.S. Forest Service reported.

Residents of Monrovia, Bradbury, Altadena, Duarte, Pasadena and other San Gabriel Valley areas were advised to be ready to evacuate if flames spread their way.

Sunday’s evacuation order for Sierra Madre and Arcadia residents in an area north of Elkins Avenue and east of Santa Anita Avenue remained in effect for Arcadia residents and “until further notice,” for Sierra Madre, officials said. The area includes parts of both cities.

The Arcadia Fire Department reported that 267 Arcadia homes had been evacuated.

Sierra Madre police said 32 homes were affected by the evacuation order in their city, where the City Council unanimously approved a declaration of a state of emergency on Sunday.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended its smoke advisory through Tuesday afternoon for portions of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and the National Weather Service reported that a southeast upper level wind flow was pushing considerable smoke toward the Santa Clarita Valley, Acton and Antelope Valley on Monday afternoon.

The Los Angeles Zoo, which closed Sunday due to poor air quality and had hoped to reopen on Tuesday, said it would remain closed through Wednesday.

The Bobcat Fire erupted on Sept. 6 near the Cogswell Dam and West Fork Day Use area northeast of Mount Wilson and within the Angeles National Forest. The cause remains under investigation.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she has signed a proclamation declaring a local emergency in the county because of the fire and requested a state proclamation. The proclamation will be subject to a ratification vote at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Pasadena officials urged residents to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, while officials from multiple foothill communities reminded residents that it is illegal to fly drones over the fire area.

Angeles Crest Highway 2 was closed from Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road to Big Pines, Highway 39 was closed at Old San Gabriel Canyon Road, and Glendora Ridge Road, Glendora Mountain Road, and Mount Wilson Road were closed, as well.

City News Service contributed to this post.

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