Bobcat Fire Grows to More Than 100,000 Acres, Continues to Threaten Homes


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest continued its aggressive march today, advancing again on Mount Wilson while prompting fresh evacuation orders as officials worked to prevent the flames from spreading out of the Antelope Valley foothills, where homes are believed to have burned.

Fire officials said that while the fire continues to burn below the Mount Wilson Observatory and was making “a hard push,'' they are employing a variety of techniques to make sure key infrastructure is protected.

“The Bobcat Fire has picked up again and is making its way towards the northwest slope of the Mt. Wilson Drainage. Cal Fire is planning another strategic firing operation on the north/northwest slope of Mt. Wilson. Resources have made their way back to the lower parking lot,'' Mount Wilson Observatory representatives wrote on Twitter.

The National Weather Service reported that winds near the observatory were blowing about 5-10 mph and relative humidity was at about 30-35% Monday afternoon.

As of Monday afternoon, the fire was still listed as 105,345 acres in size, with just 15% containment. The acreage figure, however, will likely increase when updated figures are released.

Late Monday morning, two private drones being flown in the area prompted the 30-minute grounding of a fixed-wing aircraft and the diversion of other aircraft resources to the northwest part of the fire as a precaution, a fire official said. There was no immediate word on who was operating the drones.

The U.S. Forest Service reported shortly before 2 p.m. that the aircraft was back in the air.

Evacuation orders were added Monday afternoon for residents south and west of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road; east of Angeles Forest Highway; and north of Angeles Crest (2) Highway, according to the sheriff's department.

Evacuation orders remained in place for residents:

-- along Angeles Crest Highway, between Angeles Forest Highway and Highway 39;

-- in the unincorporated areas of Juniper Hills, Devils Punch Bowl, Paradise Springs, Crystal Lake, East Fork of the San Gabriel River, and Camp Williams;

-- south of Highway 138, north of Big Rock Creek, east of 87th Street East, and west of Largo Vista Road;

-- south of 138th Street East, north of Big Pine Highway and Highway 2, east of Largo Vista Road, and west of 263rd Street East; and

-- south of Highway 138, north of East Avenue W-14, east of 155th Street East, and west of 165th Street East.

A virtual community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on a YouTube channel set up specifically to provide information about the Bobcat Fire, and will also be streamed on the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Facebook page.

The fire remained active overnight Sunday due to poor humidity, and spotting continues to present challenges, according to the Forest Service, but progress was reported on the south end of the fire in the San Gabriel Valley.

“Progress was made on holding containment lines on the south end of the fire. Heavy fire activity took place to the north end of the fire where crews worked on constructing indirect line from the north east coming to the south, as well as the northwest coming to the south,'' the Forest Service said. “Dozer line is being constructed to cut the fire off, this work is starting atCamp Singing Pines heading north.''

On Sunday afternoon, fire officials tweeted that the blaze that began more than two weeks ago was “holding west of Hwy 39 from Crystal Lake to the San Gabriel Reservoir,'' but that continued winds were pushing both the northwestern and southwestern edges with growth toward the west.

Structures have been lost and damaged in the Antelope Valley, including in the Juniper Hills area, but the number of homes affected was not immediately available as fire officials have not yet conducted a damage assessment.

“There have been homes and structures impacted,'' Larry Smith of theU.S. Forest Service's public information team said Monday, but he could not provide further details.

Los Angeles County parks officials said the Nature Center at the Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area was burned by the fire. The area is closed until further notice.

The following areas remained under evacuation warnings as of Monday afternoon, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department:

-- city of Pasadena;

-- unincorporated communities of Altadena and Wrightwood;

-- south of Pearblossom Highway, north of Angeles Forest Highway, north and west of Mount Emma Road, east and south of Highway 122, and west of Cheseboro Road;

-- south of Highway 2, north of Blue Ridge Truck Trail, east of Highway 39, and west of the Los Angeles County border;

-- south of Avenue U-8, north of East Avenue W-14, east of 121st East, and west of 155th Street East;

-- south of Pearblossom Highway, south and east of Pearblossom Highway, north and west of Mt. Emma Road, north and east of Angeles Forest Highway, and west of Cheseboro Road; and

-- south of Mount Emma Road, north of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, and west of Pacifico Mountain.

The Wrightwood area in San Bernardino County was also under an evacuation warning.

On the fire's southern end, evacuation warnings were lifted Saturday for the communities of Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia, Bradbury and Duarte in the San Gabriel Valley.

An American Red Cross evacuation center was set up at Palmdale High School in the Antelope Valley, while the earlier evacuation point at Santa Anita Park for those in the San Gabriel Valley was closed. Anyone still needing assistance is urged to call the Disaster Distress Hotline at 800-675-5799.

Officials said the fire continued to flare up around Mount Wilson, home not only one of the crown jewels of astronomy but also home to infrastructure that transmits cellphone signals and television and radio broadcasts for the greater Los Angeles Area, over the weekend. Once again, though, firefighters were able to protect the area from any damage.

A total of 1,718 personnel were assigned to the fire as of Monday afternoon.

A closure order has been issued for national forests in Southern California, including the Angeles National Forest.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health warned Sunday that air quality will be unhealthy through Monday for people in the East San Gabriel Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains. Residents were advised to limit their outdoor exposure as much as possible, and keep doors and windows closed.

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. Full containment of the fire is not expected until Oct. 30.

Photo: Getty Images

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