Firefighters battled the 44,393-acre Bobcat Fire Wednesday, seeking to prevent it from reaching the Mount Wilson Observatory and nearby broadcast towers valued at more than $1 billion.
The fire’s size had been listed at 41,773 acres on Tuesday, with 3% containment.
“This morning the Bobcat Fire is at 44,393 acres and is 3% contained,” the Angeles National Forest reported on Wednesday morning. “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.”
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 about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
“Assisted by the outstanding defensible space of Mt. Wilson Observatory, firefighters installed hand and dozer line – strategically fired, and dropped water creating a strong protection point for Mt. Wilson.”
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 (the setting of backfires) 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. 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.
The fire was 3% contained Tuesday and a 500- to 1,000-acre spot fire crossed Angeles Crest (2) Highway, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Another primary focus for firefighters on Tuesday was keeping the fire from reaching the foothill communities to the south. 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 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.
“We understand that this is a difficult situation for our community, but we are Arcadia Strong.”
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.
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 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 are closed. Highway 39 is closed north of Azusa to state Route 2, which is closed between Upper Tujunga to Big Pines.
Upper Big Tujunga Road is closed between state Route 2 and Angeles Forest Highway. Chantry Flat Road is closed. Mount Wilson Road is closed from state Route 2 to Mount Wilson.
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 1,091 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, said it would remain closed through Wednesday.
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.