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Containment Slips as Bobcat Fire Grows, Moves Closer To Homes, Mt. Wilson Observatory

Pasadena officials said there is no immediate threat to the city, but urges residents in foothill areas to be prepared to evacuate

Published on Monday, September 14, 2020 | 9:29 pm
 
Angeles National Forest officials reported late Monday that strategic firing operations were underway to protect the infrastructure around Mt. Wilson. Image courtesy Angeles National Forest

Firefighters worked Tuesday morning to protect the infrastructure around Mt. Wilson as the 41,231-acre Bobcat Fire crept closer to the historic Observatory and broadcast towers worth a billion dollars, but overall containment fell to 3% after the fire grew in size.

Containment had risen to 6% Thursday then remained unchanged until Monday night.

The fire is “creeping” toward the Mt. Wilson Observatory, an official with the U.S. Forest Service said.

“Strategic firing operations (backfires being set by firefighters) are taking place to protect the infrastructure around Mt. Wilson,” the Angeles National Forest tweeted late Monday night. “Firefighters are taking advantage of favorable weather conditions. Crews and equipment will be staffing the Bobcat Fire” through the early morning hours.

“The Bobcat Fire is knocking on our door,” Mount Wilson Observatory tweeted about 9:25 p.m. “Fire officials predicted that the fire would approach Mt. Wilson from Echo Rock. It looks like they are correct.”

All observatory personnel have been evacuated.

Fire engines were in place near the observatory to try to protect it, the U.S. Forest Service said.

With the fire’s growth, Pasadena residents were advised to be ready to evacuate if flames spread their way.

“While there is no immediate threat, conditions could change rapidly, so STAY READY! Have a plan in place (including for any animals you have) and pack supplies ahead of time in case you need to evacuate,” a statement from Pasadena officials cautioned.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended its smoke advisory through Tuesday afternoon for Pasadena as the fire spews smoke and ash into the atmosphere, creating unhealthy conditions.

Pasadena City College announced its campus will be closed because of the poor air quality and Pasadena Unified said its Pasadena LEARNs supervised care programs are canceled through Friday, September 18.

PUSD’s Grab & Go Food Centers will be open from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday at John Muir High School, Field Elementary, Norma Coombs, Madison Elementary, McKinley School, and Wilson Middle School.

All city departments are open as usual but limiting outdoor activities/work to the extent possible for employees.

The Arcadia Fire Department announced 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.”

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.

An evacuation order was issued for Camp Williams in the San Gabriel Mountains in Azusa. The property includes a campground, mobile home park, cafe and general store on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River.

Sunday’s 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.

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.

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.

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).

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 proclamation will be subject to a ratification vote at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

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.

Pasadena officials joined officials from multiple foothill communities to remind 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.

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

Angeles Crest Highway 2 was closed from Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road to Big Pines, Highway 39 was closed at Old San Gabriel Canyon Road, and Glendora Ridge Road, Glendora Mountain Road, and Mount Wilson Road were closed, as well.

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