Fire crews work to protect Mt. Wilson Observatory

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Firefighters were working tonight to keep the 41,773-acre Bobcat Fire from reaching the Mount Wilson Observatory and nearby broadcast towers valued at more than $1 billion.

“While there is still much work to be done in the southwest and in the northern sections of the fire, your firefighters did incredible work around Mt. Wilson today,” the U.S. Forest Service tweeted about 9 p.m. Tuesday.

“Assisted by the outstanding defensible space of Mt. Wilson Observatory, firefighters installed hand and dozer line – strategically fired, and dropped water creating a strong protection point for Mt. Wilson.”

Fire officials noted that prior fuel treatments in the Mount Wilson area have helped “moderate fire intensity and rate of spread around the area.”

At 12:31 p.m. Tuesday, the ANF tweeted: “The #BobcatFire is within 500 ft of the Mt. Wilson Observatory & crews are in place ready to receive the fire. Strategic firing is taking place in the south where air operations are strengthening dozerlines. Crews are working a spot fire that crossed Hwy 2 near Buckhorn.”

Observatory personnel were evacuated. Mount Wilson is home to infrastructure that transmits cellphone signals and television and radio broadcasting for the greater Los Angeles Area.

The fire was 3% contained Tuesday and a 500- to 1,000-acre spot fire crossed Angeles Crest (2) Highway, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Another primary focus for firefighters on Tuesday was keeping the fire from reaching the foothill communities to the south. Evacuation warnings remained in place in Pasadena, Altadena, Monrovia, Bradbury, Sierra Madre and Duarte.

An 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, and said 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.”

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.

A Red Cross evacuation center was established at the Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. Residents were advised to enter through Gate 5. More information about the center is available at 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-2767).

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.

The Pasadena Humane Society said animal control workers would be stationed at the Red Cross evacuation zone to assist with the transport of displaced pets back to the Pasadena Humane shelter.

Evacuation orders were lifted for the East Fork area, including Camp Williams, the River Community Center and Fire Camp 19, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Residents and business owners on East Fork Road between Highway 39 and Glendora Mountain Road were permitted to enter through Glendora Mountain Road in Glendora starting at 4 p.m.

All roads leading into San Gabriel Canyon are closed. Highway 39 is closed north of Azusa to state Route 2, which is closed between Upper Tujunga to Big Pines.

Upper Big Tujunga Road is closed between state Route 2 and Angeles Forest Highway. Chantry Flat Road is closed. Mount Wilson Road is closed from state Route 2 to Mount Wilson.

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

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.

A closure order for all National Forests in Southern California was extended to Sept. 21.

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.

Some 1,091 firefighting personnel were engaged in the effort by Tuesday afternoon. A secondary priority Tuesday was keeping the fire south of Highway 2.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended its smoke advisory through Wednesday for most areas of Los Angeles County, even the coasts.

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.

County officials also said three COVID-19 testing sites would be closed Wednesday — at Fairplex in Pomona, the San Gabriel Valley Airport and Panorama City.

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 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.

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