Firefighters continued battling the 44,393-acre Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest Wednesday, after successfully protecting the Mount Wilson Observatory and nearby broadcast towers valued at more than $1 billion from approaching flames.
Although the fire grew to 44,393 acres and was still just 3% contained, evacuation orders were lifted for residents north of Elkins Avenue and east of Santa Anita Avenue in Arcadia and portions of Sierra Madre.
Arcadia city officials said residents would not be able to return to their homes before 4 p.m.
“We had a good night last night and fire behavior moderated at the south end of the fire. There was no infrared flight last night,” the Angeles National Forest reported Wednesday.
Back fires set throughout the day Tuesday near the observatory were effective in decreasing the intensity and spread of the flames, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
“While there is still much work to be done in the southwest and in the northern sections of the fire, your firefighters did incredible work around Mt. Wilson today,” the forest service tweeted.
Observatory personnel were evacuated. Mount Wilson is not only one of the crown jewels of astronomy but also home to infrastructure that transmits cellphone signals and television and radio broadcasting for the greater Los Angeles Area.
At the north end of the fire, the focus was to try to contain the spot fires across Highway 2 after a 500- to 1,000-acre spot fire crossed the highway Tuesday. Air tankers were ordered Wednesday morning to help contain the spot fire in the Cooper Canyon area.
The east side of the fire remained quiet.
Evacuation orders were issued for residences within the area north of Angeles Crest North and between Clear Creek Station and Highway 39.
A Red Cross Evacuation Center has been established at Santa Anita Park at 285 W. Huntington Drive in Arcadia. Residents are advised to enter through Gate 5. To reach Red Cross LA, call 1-800-675-5799.
The Arcadia Fire Department reported that 267 Arcadia homes had been evacuated and no homes were damaged by the fire.
“Multiple strike teams continue to work in the north end of the city throughout the night,” the department tweeted Tuesday night. “Moderate fire activity remains behind Wilderness Park and adjacent to homes.
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.
Evacuation warnings were in effect for the foothill communities of Pasadena, Altadena, Monrovia, Bradbury, Sierra Madre and Duarte, and for residents north of Foothill Boulevard and east of Santa Anita Avenue.
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 to the Pasadena Humane shelter.
Evacuation orders were lifted for the East Fork area, including the Camp Williams resort in Azusa, the River Community Center and Fire Camp 19, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.
Residents and business owners on East Fork Road between Highway 39 and Glendora Mountain Road were permitted to enter through Glendora Mountain Road in Glendora starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
All roads leading into San Gabriel Canyon were closed. Highway 39 was closed north of Azusa to state Route 2, which was closed between Upper Tujunga to Big Pines.
Upper Big Tujunga Road was closed between state Route 2 and Angeles Forest Highway. Chantry Flat Road was closed. Mount Wilson Road was closed from state Route 2 to Mount Wilson.
Wednesday was expected to bring higher temperatures, with continued low humidity. The abnormally dry vegetation has been fueling the blaze, leading to extreme fire behavior and rapid rates of spread.
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.
Some 1,158 firefighting personnel were engaged in the effort by Tuesday afternoon.
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, announced it will remain closed through Friday. The zoo plans to open Saturday, and urged people who purchased tickets during the closure period to visit the facility’s website to reschedule.
“Based on past fire events in the area, we do not anticipate air quality issues to affect our animals,” according to a Twitter post from the zoo. “However, our animal care and veterinary health staff are closely monitoring the animals in outdoor habitats and are preparing to respond as necessary.”
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 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.