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Bobcat Fire: More Than 46K Acres Burned; Evacuation Orders Lifted In Arcadia And Sierra Madre

Updated
Published
Firefighters watch the Bobcat Fire burning on hillsides near Monrovia Canyon Park in Monrovia on Sept. 15, 2020. (Ringo Chui/AFP via Getty Images)

This story is no longer being updated. Follow our coverage of the Bobcat Fire for Thursday, Sept. 17>>

Yesterday's coverage:

Mt. Wilson Observatory is still standing after firefighters dug in to defend the historic science station as the Bobcat Fire closed in. Their hard work will also allow residents who were ordered to evacuate Sunday to return to their homes this afternoon.

Late tonight, fire officials said the current goal was "to hold onto what has been accomplished over the last few days in the vicinity of the foothill communities and Mt. Wilson Observatory."

That effort so far has held back the fire from the facility after it came within 500 feet on Tuesday. The observatory is arguably one of the world's most important spots for scientific discovery. Firefighters used a variety of tactics to protect the observatory, including carving out lines by hand and with bulldozers, setting strategic backfires and using aircraft to make water drops.

Here's what else we know about the fire so far today.

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 46,263 acres
  • Containment: 3%
  • Resources deployed: 1,158 firefighters

The blaze erupted last Sunday near the Cogswell Dam and then spread rapidly amid an intense, record-breaking heat wave, prompting evacuation orders for Mt. Wilson Observatory. The cause is under investigation.

Firefighters continue to work in steep difficult terrain with help from helicopters and planes.

Flames in the southern front of the blaze continued to burn through Spanish Canyon near homes in Monrovia overnight, though the city did not order any evacuations, saying the fire was "burning in a controlled manner."

Michael Kunch uses a garden hose to water down his roof as a protective measure as the Bobcat Fire burns down a nearby hillside in Monrovia on Sept.15, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The Bobcat Fire burns on hillsides behind homes in Monrovia on Sept. 15, 2020. (Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images)

Firefighters are also working to contain a spot fire that jumped Highway 2 yesterday and has burned roughly 700 to 1,000 acres in the area of Cooper Canyon.

"Fuels are at critically dry levels and we anticipate increased fire activity over the next couple of days compared to yesterday," forest officials said.

Officials note that Mt. Wilson remains under threat from the fire. Crews are also battling back flames in Santa Anita Canyon and continue to hold the line nearby in Monrovia, and up north at Highway 2.

CLOSURES

  • The Angeles National Forest remains closed through Sept. 21 — along with all other national forests in California
  • State Route 39 is closed at Old Gabriel Canyon Road to State Route 2
  • State Route 2 is closed from Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road to Big Pines
  • Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road
  • Mt. Wilson Road
  • Glendora Mountain Road
  • Glendora Ridge Road

EVACUATIONS

The Bobcat Fire burns on hillsides behind homes in Arcadia on Sept. 13, 2020, prompting mandatory evacuations for residents of several communities living along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Arcadia city officials liftrf evacuation orders for residents in Arcadia and the adjacent city of Sierra Madre who live north of Elkins Avenue and east of Santa Anita Avenue. Residents of those neighborhoods were allowed to return to their homes as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Evacuation warnings remain in effect for those neighborhoods and these other foothill communities:

  • Monrovia
  • Arcadia
  • Sierra Madre
  • Bradbury
  • Duarte
  • Pasadena
  • Altadena

"Residents should have evacuation plans in place, organize their emergency evacuation supplies, and have essential evacuation personal belongings easily accessible," U.S. Forest Service officials wrote on the fire incident page. "Vehicles should be fully fueled, facing out in their driveways and ready to leave."

Evacuation orders have been lifted for residents in the East Fork area, which includes Camp Williams and the River Community Center. Residents returning to their homes were advised to use Glendora Mountain Road, as State Route 39 remains closed.

SHELTER SITES

A Red Cross Evacuation Center was re-established at Santa Anita Park, 285 W. Huntington Drive (entry at Gate 5).

L.A. County officials said a shelter site for horses has been established at the Pomona Fairplex (entry at Gate 12).

AIR QUALITY

The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended a smoke advisory through Thursday as unhealthy air continues to blanket much of the L.A. Basin and Inland Empire. It's not just local fires though; smoke is also making its way to us from wildfires in Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

Onshore winds are expected to clear out some of that smoke from the basins and valleys and push it into the mountains today.

Look up the latest air quality info for your area at airnow.gov.

ABOUT MT. WILSON

Smoke rises behind Mt. Wilson Observatory as the Bobcat Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 14, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Mt. Wilson Observatory houses 18 telescopes, many of which were used to make some of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the last century. They include the 100 inch Hooker telescope that Edwin Hubble used in the 1920s to prove that our universe is still expanding. Observatory Director Tom Meneghini said he's afraid they could be seriously impacted if the fire gets close enough.

"The heat can do irreparable damage. Our two big telescopes are historically significant and irreplaceable,” Meneghini said.

However, he said fires have gotten close before and the decades-old firefighting setup at the Observatory is ready to be used again. "We have an inground system of hoses and pumps," he said.

"We have half a million gallons of water ready to pump so that’s all been prepared for any fire professional to come in and take over."

The fire also threatens a seismic station that has recorded earthquake activity for 100 years, seismologist Lucy Jones said via Twitter.

Numerous television and radio stations have transmitters in the area, including our newsroom which broadcasts on the radio at 89.3 KPCC.

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

Ryan Fonseca and Mike Roe are gathering updates on the fire.

This is a developing story. We fact check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:

FIRE RESOURCES

YOUR QUESTIONS OR IDEAS

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily newsletters. To support our non-profit public service journalism: Donate Now.

Correcting Sheriff Villanueva's Narrative About Our Reporter's Arrest

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Published
KPCC/LAist correspondent Josie Huang being detained while reporting by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department personnel on September 12, 2020. ABC7 via Twitter user @TheChalkOutline

Shortly before being arrested on Sunday, KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang had been covering an evening press conference at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, about the ambush shooting of two L.A. County Sheriff's deputies. Afterward, as she was preparing to leave, she heard noise in front of the hospital and went to see a small group of protestors chanting and taunting deputies on the scene.

Before long, Huang saw an arrest underway and began documenting it — only to get arrested herself, despite repeatedly saying that she was a reporter, and despite video evidence that shows she was not a threat.

Several journalists and media organizations, including NPR, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Los Angeles Times Guild and the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press condemned the arrest as an attack on press freedoms and the First Amendment.

Yet, LASD and Sheriff Alex Villanueva have doubled down on their narrative, stating on Twitter, KTLA and in a press conference that Huang "refused deputies' instructions" and was "creating a hazard."

The sheriff's department has not responded to our requests for comment on this matter, so we are setting the record straight.

READ AND WATCH: JOSIE HUANG'S ARREST BY LASD

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Guidelines For Reopening Theme Parks Coming 'Very Soon'; More Fire, Coronavirus Updates

Updated
Published

Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on the wildfires affecting California and the latest on the coronavirus. You can read highlights below or watch the full video above.

NEW GUIDELINES COMING FOR REOPENING THEME PARKS

Newsom said that new guidelines would be released "very, very shortly" on theme parks and amusement parks, as well as other areas/industries/sectors. But not yet.

NOTHING PREVENTING USC PAC-12 FOOTBALL GAMES

There is nothing in the state's guidelines that would keep USC college football games in the PAC-12 from happening, Newsom said. He acknowledged the difficulties of practicing with a limit of cohorts of 12 practicing together in football. He also noted that these players are not able to be in a "bubble," as opposed to those in use in a number of pro sports.

LATEST COVID-19 NUMBERS

The number of counties in the most serious tier of the state's COVID-19 restriction tiers, colored purple, has gone down from 33 to 30 counties. There are currently 17 counties in the red tier, 9 in the orange tier, and 2 in the yellow tier — California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced these shifts on Tuesday. The number of yellow and orange counties are expected to grow next week, Newsom said.

Newsom stressed the need to learn from previous three-day weekends that caused increases in COVID-19 — Memorial Day weekend and Fourth of July weekend. He added that the data isn't in yet for Labor Day weekend due to lagging indicators, which is part of why there's a need for these tiers to shift slowly.

There were 2,950 new coronavirus cases yesterday, with the seven-day average at 3,348. Newsom said that the rate of spread is continuing to decline, though the number of cases remains significant.

The state's positivity rate is currently 3.6% over the past seven days. Newsom reiterated that the number of daily tests will be increased as part of a new partnership, while also noting that air quality over the past three weeks has impacted the number of tests being performed. An average of 93,818 tests have been conducted each day over the past week, with more than 100,000 tests conducted every day for the past three days.

There has been a 22% decline in COVID-19-positive hospitalizations, with those patients making up 4% of those in state hospitals. ICU admissions for COVID-19-positive patients are also down 22%, with 10% of the state's ICU capacity in use by COVID-19 patients.

WILDFIRES IN CALIFORNIA

While Newsom highlighted progress on many fires, he brought attention to the Bobcat Fire in L.A. County and the lack of progress made against it so far.

Between 1980 and today, Newsom noted that the average temperature in the summer months has increased over the summer months from 71 degrees to 74 degrees. Newsom said that this is the direct result of climate change. He noted that he raised this point with both President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee for vice president, Kamala Harris, as they each visited California this week.

Newsom credited governors of both parties for establishing environmental standards in California, going back to then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan.

While last year was a relatively mild fire season, Newsom said, more than 10 times as many acres have burned so far this year — 3,371,624 acres vs. 277,360 acres burned last year. That compares to 2 million acres burned in 2018, and 1.5 million acres burned in 2017.

As of this date last year, there had been 5,136 fires which burned 152,000 acres. This year, 7,860 fires have burned 3.4 million acres. In the last month, 2.8 million acres have burned.

The state is currently fighting 25 major fires/fire complexes. There are more than 38,000 people currently evacuated. More than 17,000 firefighters and 2,200 fire engines are in use, including some coming from other states as part of mutual aid.

There have been 25 deaths so far, and more than 4,200 structures destroyed, with that number expected to grow.

Update on current major fires from Gov. Newsom:

  • Bobcat (L.A. County): 3% contained, 44,000 acres
  • Creek Fire (Fresno, Madera): 18% contained, 220,000 acres burned
  • North Complex Fire (Plumas, Lassen): 36% contained, 273,000 acres
  • LNU: 97% contained, 363,000 acres
  • CZU: 93% contained, 86,000 acres
  • August: 30% contained, 817,000 acres
  • Valley (San Diego County): 90% contained, 17,000 acres
  • El Dorado (San Bernardino County): 60% contained, 18,000 acres

MORE COVID-19 UPDATES

While San Diego is lobbying excluding college students from being included in its numbers, Newsom said that he would not consider that exception, as those college students are part of that community and not on an island. Newsom said he is concerned with how San Diego businesses will navigate having to go back and forth between different tiers due to its COVID-19 numbers, but that he hopes counties can start moving positively through the different tiers.

Newsom said that a report on the state's EDD unemployment system is largely completed, but that Newsom was still awaiting details from EDD on how they plan to implement recommendations from the report before making it public. He said that is expected to be released in the next few days.

Newsom discussed the difficulties his own children have been dealing with when it comes to distance learning.

FIGHTING HOMELESSNESS IN CALIFORNIA

Newsom opened the press conference with an update on California's investments in fighting homelessness in the state. He talked about Project Homekey, which includes $600 million to purchase motels and other housing for the homeless. That money is scheduled to be spent before the end of 2020.

The first awards in that project are being issued today, Newsom said, with $76.5 million spent to purchase 579 units, as part of 10 projects in seven different jurisdictions.

Our news is free on LAist. To make sure you get our coverage: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. To support our nonprofit public service journalism: Donate now.

El Dorado Fire: 18,000 Acres Burned, Containment At 60%

Updated
Published
(Courtesy San Bernardino National Forest via Twitter)

This story is no longer being updated. Follow our coverage of the El Dorado Fire for Thursday, Sept. 17 >>

Yesterday's coverage:

The El Dorado Fire continues to burn in the San Bernardino National Forest, forcing evacuations of thousands of homes in mountain communities.

Here's what we know about the blaze so far today:

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 18,092
  • Containment: 60%
  • Structures destroyed: 4 homes, 6 other structures
  • Structures damaged: 2 homes, 4 other structures
  • Residences evacuated: 3,467
  • Structures threatened: 26,031
  • Personnel: 1,319 firefighters
  • Injuries: 12

The El Dorado Fire began on Saturday, September 5, with a bang — literally — when a firework from a gender reveal party in Yucaipa ignited a blaze that has threatened thousands of homes and caused the mandatory evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

Fire officials say the fire is burning at a lower intensity near the Angelus Oaks area, which has been threatened in recent days.

"If conditions change — especially a shift in wind direction or speed — firefighters are prepared to defend Angelus Oaks should the fire begin burning more aggressively," forest officials wrote on the incident page.

To the north, the blaze is approaching Highway 38, and officials say they will use the roadway itself as a fuel-break. That means it will basically become a containment line as crews work to create defensible space along the route.

Firefighters have also built a contigency line near Barton Flats to direct the fire away from that area and toward the burn scar of the Lake Fire, which burned 49 square miles in 2015.

EVACUATIONS

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect for the following communities (detailed map here):

  • Mountain Home Village
  • Forest Falls
  • Angelus Oaks
  • Seven Oaks
  • Barton Flats / Jenks Lake Area east to Onyx Summit

A Red Cross evacuation center is open at the Redlands East Valley High School, 31000 E. Colton Ave.

All evacuation orders and warnings have been lifted for residents in Yucaipa, Oak Glen and Mentone. Officials are asking residents to use caution as they return to their homes due to the emergency crews still working in the area.

Big Bear residents are not currently any evacuation warnings or orders, but local officials there have issued a fire advisory, asking residents "to closely monitor the El Dorado Fire, and take appropriate precautions based on your individual circumstances."

CLOSURES

CalFire Captain Fernando Herrera in his SUV along Highway 38 during the El Dorado Fire. (Sharon McNary/LAist)

Highway 38 remains closed between Bryant Street and Lake Williams Drive.

The San Bernardino National Forest remains closed through Sept. 21 — along with all other national forests in California.

AIR QUALITY

The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended a smoke advisory through Thursday as unhealthy air continues to blanket much of the L.A. Basin and Inland Empire. It's not just local fires though; smoke is also making its way to us from wildfires in Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

Onshore winds are expected to clear out some of that smoke from the basins and valleys and push it into the mountains today.

Look up the latest air quality info for your area at airnow.gov.

CAUSE

The family behind the party where authorities say a pyrotechnic device was set off tried to put out the fire and called 911, but it was too late. They have cooperated with authorities, but Cal Fire spokesperson Captain Bennett Malloy says it's possible they could face misdemeanor charges:

"Some of the laws they could have broken: a public resource code where you cause a fire on somebody else's land, or, in California under a penal code, there's provisions for what's called recklessly causing a fire. And that may be the case with this fire, but that would be up to the district attorney to determine."

Prosecutors could pursue felony charges if someone is hurt or killed, or if homes are damaged by the fire. Though no charges had been filed yet.

HOW WE’RE REPORTING ON THIS

This is a developing story. We fact check everything and rely only on information from credible sources (think fire, police, government officials and reporters on the ground). Sometimes, however, we make mistakes and/or initial reports turn out to be wrong. In all cases, we strive to bring you the most accurate information in real time and will update this story as new information becomes available.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:

FIRE RESOURCES

YOUR QUESTIONS OR IDEAS

Morning Briefing: Protecting The Mt. Wilson Observatory

Updated
Published
Smoke rises behind Mt. Wilson Observatory as the Bobcat Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 14, 2020. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Never miss a morning briefing. Subscribe today to get our A.M. newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Good morning, L.A.

The Bobcat Fire is still raging in the Angeles National Forest, having grown to consume 41,231 acres. It was at 6% containment earlier this week, but that number has dwindled to 3% thanks to the flames’ rapid spread.

As of Tuesday evening, the fire was closing in on Mt. Wilson and the Mt. Wilson Observatory – the 114-year-old structure that’s home to 18 groundbreaking telescopes and some of the most important astronomical developments in recent times. In the 1920s, Edwin Hubble discovered the Andromeda galaxy from the observatory using a 100-inch telescope, which led to the identification of the universe. Later, Hubble would find that the universe is still expanding – a central tenet of the Big Bang theory.

Firefighters are aggressively defending the structure, notes KPCC’s Jacob Margolis, but the blaze is closing in.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, September 16

Aaron Mendelson deconstructs the false and misleading statements made by L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva concerning his department’s arrest of KPCC reporter Josie Huang. Huang was taken into custody as she documented the arrest of a protester outside the hospital in Lynwood where two wounded deputies were being treated.

LAist staff and reporters will have ongoing coverage of the Bobcat and El Dorado Fires.

Never miss an LAist story. Sign up for our daily newsletters.


The Past 24 Hours In LA

Wildfires: The Bobcat Fire has burned 41,231 acres in the Angeles National Forest, and is at 3% containment. It’s closing in on the 114-year-old Mount Wilson Observatory, arguably one of the world's most important spots for scientific discovery. The El Dorado Fire has burned 17,598 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest, and is at 54% containment.

Organized Crime: The FBI, LAPD and LASD announced federal indictments of two dozen members or associates of Asian organized crime in Southern California.

California Kids: The NAACP-CA is opposing Prop 15, claiming it could hurt small Black-owned businesses, while supporters say it will help underfunded schools. Here's what we know about LAUSD's plan to offer COVID-19 tests to teachers and students.


Photo Of The Day

The sun peaks through smoke filled skies due to the Bobcat Fire.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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