Mt. Wilson Observatory is still standing this morning after firefighters 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 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.
"While there is still much work to be done in southwest and in the northern sections of the fire, your firefighters did incredible work around Mt. Wilson today," forest officials said Tuesday.
We give our sincerest thanks to the firefighters who are on the ground defending our observatory as well as the pilots flying aircraft for fire suppression. Heres a picture from of firefighters crossing the "Einstein Bridge" from the 100-inch dome. #BOBCATFIRE pic.twitter.com/yrbLPtnhJhMount Wilson Observatory (@MtWilsonObs) September 15, 2020
The Bobcat Fire continues to grow with limited containment in the Angeles National Forest, threatening foothill communities. Here's what we know about the fire so far today.
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."
An evacuation order remains in place for residents in Arcadia and the adjacent city of Sierra Madre who live north of Elkins Avenue and east of Santa Anita Avenue.
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.
Evacuation warnings remain in effect for the following foothill cities and communities:
"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."
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 Wednesday afternoon 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.
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 thats 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 WERE REPORTING ON THIS
Ryan Fonseca is 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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