Containment of the 114,200-acre Bobcat Fire dropped from 65% to 62% Monday, as firefighters prepared for a day of moderate Santa Ana winds.
The fire has been burning in the Angeles National Forest for nearly three weeks, threatening communities in the Antelope Valley and foothills of the San Gabriel Valley. Its estimated date of full containment remained the same — Wednesday — as 1,363 firefighting personnel were assigned to the scene as of Monday.
U.S. Forest Service officials said crews continued to actively patrol the fire area overnight, searching out heat along the perimeter while monitoring containment lines in preparation for the winds.
A red flag warning was in effect through 5 p.m. Monday. North to northeast wind gusts between 30 and 45 mph were expected, along with relative humidity dropping into the teens and single digits.
As of Monday morning, evacuation orders remained for residents:
— In Paradise Springs — south of Big Pines Highway, east of Devil’s Punchbowl, west of Largo Vista Road, and north of the forest;
— South and west of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon, east of Angeles Forest Highway, and north of Angeles Crest Highway;
— Residences along Angeles Crest Highway, between Angeles Forest Highway and Highway 39.
Evacuation warnings remained for:
— South of Big Pines Highway, east of Largo Vista Road, west of 263rd Street East (county line), and north of the forest;
— South of Mt. Emma Road, north of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, east of Angeles Forest Highway, and west of Pacifico Mountain;
— East Fork Areas: Julius Klein Conservation Camp 19, Camp Williams and the River Community;
— Unincorporated community of Wrightwood.
Flames have destroyed 138 structures and affected another 30 in the Antelope Valley area, with eight sustaining minor damage and five major damage, according to a damage assessment provided by Los Angeles County officials. That map, which is compiled from ongoing field damage inspection and subject to change, can be viewed at lacounty.gov/recovery/damage-inspection/.
Of the buildings destroyed, 65 were residential, one was commercial and 72 were described as “other.”
The Nature Center at the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area was burned by the fire, Los Angeles County parks officials said. The area is closed until further notice.
Evacuation orders were lifted as of 4 p.m. Saturday for the following areas:
— South of Highway 138, north of Weber Ranch Road, east of Cheseboro Road, and west of 87th Street E.
— South of Highway 138, south and east of Highway 122 (Sierra Hwy/Pearblossom), north and west of Mount Emma Road, west of Cheseboro Road, north and east of Angeles Forest Highway.
Evacuation warnings for Altadena and Pasadena issued on Sept. 8 were lifted last week, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The Red Cross evacuation centers at Palmdale High School and Santa Anita Park are now closed. Anyone still needing assistance was advised to call the Disaster Distress Hotline at 800-675-5799.
On Sunday, in the west fork of Bear Mountain Canyon, just north of Pacifico Mountain Road, crews attacked a 25-acre fire burning in the drainage.
“We utilized aircraft to stop the forward progression,” said Kerri Gilliland, a trainee with the California Interagency Incident Management Team 1. “We will have resources out there through the evening and into (Monday).”
North of Little Rock Reservoir, patrols continued, as they did to the northeast into Juniper Hills, Punch Bowl, as well as the Little Rock area. Additional “mop up” efforts proceeded to the southeast along Pinyon Ridge, which forms the southern boundary of the Borrego Valley. Further south, crews targeted Manzanita Trail.
“Right where the fire’s edge was backing down they continued to go in on portions that were accessible,” Gilliland said, describing the action taken in this section as light-touch “M.I.S.T.” tactics — an approach to quell flames with minimal environmental, cultural and social impacts.
Firefighters launched additional mop-up exercises in Door Canyon, as well as north of the San Gabriel Reservoir. Fire officials said there was “little to no fire activity” near Black Line, and no additional fire growth.
Firefighters also made progress along the southern edge of the fire from San Gabriel through the fire scar to Trask Scout Reservation as resources continue to patrol and mop up through Mt. Wilson.
“We had increased activity today,” Gilliland said Sunday, referring to a “green island” surrounded by a ring of fire by the Highway 2/Mt. Wilson road system. “This portion continues to burn and will continue to burn until this green island kind of burns itself out.”
Meanwhile, crews continued to mop up a fire that burned within 100 feet right off the road nearby, and out to Highway 2. Firefighters pursued the flames to Barley Flat. They took a run at a portion of the fire that was burning along the road system that extends to the Vetter Mountain Lookout, a historic site built in 1937.
Crews were deployed to an area just west of Waterman Mountain and to a section north of Highway 2, through Little Rock Truck Trail. Full containment was not expected until Wednesday.
Until then, planners expected to continue monitoring areas plotted with dots on their maps that indicate concerning heat spots that could flare up again.
“Residents will continue to see smoke from burning islands within the perimeters,” Forest Service officials said. “Engines will remain available in the north for smoke checks near the communities.”
A smoke advisory warning of unhealthy air quality due to the fire was extended through Monday.
It remains unclear what caused the fire, but U.S. Forest Service officials are investigating an equipment issue experienced by Southern California Edison around the time the fire broke out to determine if it was a factor in sparking one of the largest wildfires in Los Angeles County history. The utility says it was not responsible for starting the blaze, insisting that fire was detected by a camera on Mt. Wilson a few minutes before it experienced an equipment issue.
A closure order has been issued for national forests in Southern California, including the Angeles National Forest.
The fire has burned more acres than the Woolsey Fire of 2018, which scorched 96,271 acres. The Station Fire in 2009 burned 160,577 acres.
The Bobcat Fire erupted on Sept. 6 near the Cogswell Dam and West Fork Day Use area northeast of Mt. Wilson and within the Angeles National Forest.