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Bobcat Fire Grows to 100,000 Acres, Flames Flare Again Close to Mt. Wilson Prompting Aerial Assault

To the north, the fire threatens homes in Antelope Valley

Published on Monday, September 21, 2020 | 4:44 am
Flames flared close to Mt. Wilson once again on Sunday, causing a huge smoke plume. Photo by Alexandria Valerie

The Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest has grown to an estimated 103,135 acres with just 15% containment, and officials warned that the flames could continue to spread from the Antelope Valley foothills into adjacent communities.

The fire flared up significantly again near Mt. Wilson early Sunday evening, prompting an aerial assault. KCBS 2 / KCAL 9 aerial camera operator John Schreiber tweeted he witnessed drops of fire retardant by a DC-10, 737, MD80, BAe 146, and U.S. Air Force C-130 all within 30 minutes shortly after 7 p.m.

Schreiber also shot video of a massive flareup in which communication towers on Mt. Wilson were silhouetted against huge dancing flames on a nearby mountainside.

The flames were not burning on the same ridge as the Observatory but were extremely close. 

Fire officials said they were using a variety of techniques to make sure the “key infrastructure” of the Observatory remained protected.  Mt. Wilson is home not only one of the crown jewels of astronomy but also to infrastructure that transmits cellphone signals and television and radio broadcasts for the greater Los Angeles Area.

“The firefight continues,” tweeted photojournalist Stuart Palley from atop Mt. Wilson at 8:34 p.m.

Los Angeles County will host a virtual community meeting Monday on the YouTube page it has set up specifically about the Bobcat Fire. The webcast is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

The fire remained active overnight due to poor humidity, and spotting continues to present challenges, according to the U.S. Forest Service, but progress was reported on the south end of the fire in the San Gabriel Valley.

“Progress was made on holding containment lines on the south end of the fire. Heavy fire activity took place to the north end of the fire where crews worked on constructing indirect line from the northeast coming to the south, as well as the northwest coming to the south,” the Forest Service said.

“Dozerline is being constructed to cut the fire off, this work is starting at Camp Singing Pines heading north.”

Sunday afternoon, the AFL tweeted that the fire “is holding west of Hwy 39 from Crystal Lake to the San Gabriel Reservoir. Continued winds are pushing both the northwestern and southwestern edges with growth toward the west. Equipment and personnel continue to work to slow the spread of the fire.”

An online community town hall meeting is scheduled for Monday night.

Evacuation orders were issued for residences along Angeles Crest Highway and a number of unincorporated areas including Juniper Hills, Devils Punch Bowl, Paradise Springs, Crystal Lake, the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, and Camp Williams.

Structures have been damaged in the Antelope Valley and losses were expected, according to Vince Pena, unified incident commander with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The number of homes affected was not immediately available.

Earlier broadcast reports from the scene showed structures that appeared to be homes burning in the Juniper Hills area.

Los Angeles County parks officials said the Nature Center at the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area was burned by the fire and is closed until further notice.

On the fire’s southern end, evacuation warnings were lifted Saturday for the communities of Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia, Bradbury, and Duarte in the San Gabriel Valley, while the warnings for Altadena and Pasadena remained in effect.

A total of 1,686 personnel are currently assigned to the fire. 

A closure order has been issued for national forests in Southern California including the Angeles National Forest.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended its smoke advisory through Monday, with officials warning that “smoke may impact different parts of the region at different times.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health warned Sunday that air quality will be unhealthy through Monday for people in Pasadena. Residents were advised to limit their outdoor exposure as much as possible, and keep doors and windows closed.

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. Full containment of the fire is not expected until Oct. 30.

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