Bobcat fire spared historic Mount Wilson telescopes, but it was close

LOS ANGELES — Firefighters tacked spot fires in the Angeles National Forest Friday morning and secured the edges of the Bobcat fire, which was 89% contained after scorching about 115,800 acres.

“Single trees may continue to flare up and smoke,” the Angeles National Forest said Thursday. “Please do not call 911; we are aware and are actively patrolling and mopping up.”

The Mount Wilson Institute issued a statement Thursday night to celebrate that the observatory had survived the fire, which at one point came within 20 feet of the historic facility.

Antennas on Mount Wilson are seen in a live-cam image from the Mount Wilson Observatory early Friday, Oct. 9. 2020. At one point, the Bobcat fire came within 20 feet of the historic observatory, home to 60-inch and 100-inch telescopes that are known for significant astronomical discoveries. The wildfire started Sept. 6 and is expected to be fully contained by Oct. 30. It has burned about 115,800 acres. (Image courtesy of the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network) 

“The 60-inch and 100-inch telescopes, which provided significant discoveries about the cosmos, were in danger of severe damage. The monastery, where astronomers and physicists stayed during their observing time, including founder George Ellery Hale, Edwin Hubble and Albert Einstein, was in danger of burning to the ground,” said Sam Hale, the chairman of the Mount Wilson Institute’s Board of Trustees.

“But that didn’t happen. Mount Wilson Observatory didn’t surrender to flames because courageous firefighters worked around the clock to preserve and defend this historic spot.”

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The Mount Wilson Institute had also prepared for wildfires by clearing invasive fire-prone vegetation around the 100-year-old buildings, replacing old hydrants and repairing and filling three large water tankers with water to be used during drought.

“Good stewardship and thinking ahead helped Mount Wilson Observatory survive the wildfire,” Hale said.

On Thursday, a fire burned in the Mount Wilson area within the Bobcat fire’s containment zone, but no structures were threatened.

“There’s still some active pockets of fuel within the containment zone that the fire is finding,” U.S. Forest Service Public Information Officer Andrew Mitchell said.

A Go Fund Me campaign, started on Sept. 24, raised about $13,000 to help the observatory prepare for future wildfires, as well as refurbishing the observatory’s monastery, a dormitory for Observatory staff and visiting scientists, and renovating facilities to bring them up to 21st century standards, Hale said.

The brush fire broke out on Sept. 6 in the Angeles National Forest and destroyed 170 structures, including 28 residences, burned about 115,800 acres and was 89% contained Thursday.

The Nature Center at the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area was destroyed, according to Los Angeles County parks officials.

A map, compiled from ongoing field damage inspection and subject to change, can be viewed at

All evacuation orders have been changed to warnings and were in effect in the following areas:

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 Tujunga Canyon Road, east of Angeles Forest Highway and north of …read more

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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