Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This


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

Firefighters watch the Bobcat Fire burning on hillsides near Monrovia Canyon Park in Monrovia on Sept. 15, 2020. (Ringo Chui/AFP via Getty Images)
Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

This story is no longer being updated.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."

Support for LAist comes from

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.


  • Acreage: 46,263 acres
  • Containment: 3%
  • Resources deployed: 1,158 firefighters
Support for LAist comes from

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)

Support for LAist comes from

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.


  • The Angeles National Forest remains closed through Sept. 21 β€” 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
Support for LAist comes from


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.


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).


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


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,οΏ½? 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.


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.


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



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.