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Bobcat Fire Prompts Evacuation At Mt. Wilson Observatory

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Editor's note: This story is no longer being updated. For our latest coverage of the Bobcat Fire, click here.

A brush fire that erupted near the Cogswell Dam above the city of Azusa on Sunday has spread rapidly amid an intense, record-breaking heat wave, prompting evacuation orders for Mt. Wilson Observatory.

By Monday afternoon, the fire had grown to 4,871 acres and remained 0% contained — numbers that remained unchanged into the night.

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

Video from cameras placed near the observatory captured the steady approach of flames.

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The Mount 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.

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"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.


  • Acreage: 4,871 acres
  • Containment: 0%
  • Resources Deployed: 101 personnel


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Thick smoke has made the sun appear red in some places and cast an ominous orange glow over the region.

Across Southern California, the air quality level is projected to be moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups. Bottom line: If you can see it or smell it, then you should take precautions. Stay indoors and check the current air quality before attempting outdoor activities.

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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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