Firefighters battling the Bobcat Fire suffered a setback Tuesday when the extent of the fire’s containment shrank from 6% to 3%, and they struggled to protect the infrastructure at Mt. Wilson Observatory as flames crept closer to broadcast towers valued at more than a billion dollars.
On Tuesday morning, the fire’s size increased to 41,231 acres with 3% containment, down from 6% the previous day, according to the Angeles National Forest.
“Crews worked all night to keep the fire from reaching Mt. Wilson and the communities,” the ANF tweeted Tuesday morning. “Reduced containment is due to fire growth without our being able to increase containment lines.”
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.
Tuesday’s primary focus for firefighters was keeping the fire from reaching Mt. Wilson and the foothill communities. 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.
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.
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.
The abnormally dry vegetation has been fueling the blaze, leading to extreme fire behavior and rapid rates of spread.
All roads leading into San Gabriel Canyon are closed. Highway 39 is closed north of Azusa to SR 2, which is closed between Upper Tujunga to Big Pines. Upper Big Tujunga Road is closed between SR 2 and Angeles Forest Highway. Chantry Flat Road is closed. Mt. Wilson Road is closed from SR 2 to Mt Wilson.
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 the Pomona Fairplex, the San Gabriel Valley Airport and in 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 proclamation will be subject to a ratification vote at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
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.