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Bobcat Fire: More Than 55K Acres Burned; Flames Close To Mt. Wilson

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A firefighter works at the scene of the Bobcat Fire burning on hillsides near Monrovia Canyon Park on Sept. 15, 2020. (Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images)
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This story is no longer being updated. Follow our coverage of the Bobcat Fire for Friday, Sept. 18>>

Yesterday's coverage:

EVENING UPDATE

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Jump to: Basics | Evacuations | Weather Conditions | About Mt. Wilson

The Bobcat Fire continues to grow in the Angeles National Forest as the firefight enters its 12th day.

Late Thursday, officials said firefighters are continuing to protect Mt. Wilson. Images from the fire scene show the flames getting increasingly close to the history observatory.

That fight continued a day after the Highway 2 yesterday, prompting new evacuation warnings for communities to the north of the fire's path where the San Gabriel Mountains meet the High Desert.

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

THE BASICS

  • Acreage: 55,617 acres
  • Containment: 9%
  • Resources deployed: 1,158 firefighters

The blaze erupted on Sept. 6 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.

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Firefighters had been working to contain a spot fire that had jumped Highway 2 and burned roughly 700-1,000 acres in the area of Cooper Canyon. Officials later confirmed the blaze had crossed fully the highway near the junction with Highway 39 and continued to advance, threatening communities to the north.

Mt. Wilson Observatory still stands after a second harrowing night thanks to the efforts of firefighters who dug in to defend the historic science station as the Bobcat Fire closed in.

On Tuesday afternoon, Angeles National Forest officials reported the blaze was within 500 feet of the facility, which is arguably one of the world's most important spots for scientific discovery. Firefighters have 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.

The facility continued to be threatened overnight Wednesday.

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CLOSURES

  • 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

EVACUATIONS

Emergency officials issued new evacuation warnings for residents in the following areas north of the fire's path:

  • North of Angeles Crest North and between Clear Creek Station and Hwy 39
  • Juniper Hills
  • Devils Punchbowl
  • Paradise Springs
  • Area east of Devils Punch Bowl Road, south of the Big Pines Hwy, north of the Big Rock Creek, and west of Jackson Lake

"If you have not already done so, gather your family, pets, important papers, medications and any emergency supplies, and be preapred to evacuate the area if ordered," officials wrote in an alert.
On Wednesday afternoon, Arcadia city officials lifted 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 yesterday.

Evacuation warnings remain in effect for those neighborhoods and all other communities along the foothills:

Tonight authorities issued an evacuation warning for Wrightwood and Pinon Hills. Evacuation route is Hwy 2 to Phelan or Hwy 138 to I-15.

  • 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).

For residents to the north of the burn zone, accomodations for 300 large animals are available at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, 2551 W. Avenue H, Lancaster.

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.

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

ABOUT MT. WILSON

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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.

What appeared to be thick smoke was seen near the observatory mid-day Thursday.

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.

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