Watch CBS News

Firefighters Continue Battle Against Raging Bobcat Fire Threatening Monrovia, Mount Wilson Observatory


MONROVIA (CBSLA) – Exhausted firefighters Wednesday continued to work tirelessly to protect the Mount Wilson Observatory from the out-of-control Bobcat Fire, along with several communities in the San Gabriel foothills which remain under threat.

TOPSHOT - A firefighter works at the scene of the Bobcat Fire burning on hillsides near Monrovia Canyon Park in Monrovia, California on September 15, 2020. - A major fire that has been raging outside Los Angeles for more than a week threatened to engulf a historic observatory and billion-dollar broadcast towers on September 15 as firefighters struggled to contain the flames. The so-called Bobcat Fire was within 500 feet (150 meters) from the 116-year-old Mt. Wilson Observatory, the US Forest Service said in a tweet, while fire officials said crews were in place "ready to receive the fire." (Photo by RINGO CHIU / AFP) (Photo by RINGO CHIU/AFP via Getty Images)

The Bobcat Fire grew to 46,263 acres Wednesday and remained only 3% contained. No homes have been destroyed.

"We had a good night last night and fire behavior moderated at the south end of the fire," the U.S. Forest Service tweeted just before 7 a.m.

The flames Tuesday got within 500 feet of the Observatory, but crews were able to keep it from damaging the iconic structure or the numerous radio and television communication towers stationed on the mountain valued at about one billion dollars. L.A. County Fire Department helicopters conducted water drops from the Observatory's parking lot.

Monrovia was hit with a fire front in Spanish Canyon Tuesday, but crews were able to hold off the blaze. Crews had prepared for this possibility for several days by getting rid of possible fuel through strategic backfires and retardant drops.

"We're fortunate because that's the biggest threat to the city has been contained," said Jeremy Phipps Wednesday with the Monrovia Fire Department.

Bobcat Fire
The Bobcat Fire burns in the Angeles National Forest north of Monrovia, Calif. Sept. 15, 2020. (U.S. Forest Service)

While the fire still threaten the foothills, a drop in temperatures with little winds has allowed crews to make critical defensive moves.

On Wednesday, residents in Sierra Madre were able to return after the evacuation order lifted for about 300 homes in the area.

Meanwhile, the South Coast Air Quality Management District extended a smoke advisory into Wednesday for all of L.A. County. Thick smoke and ash hangs over the foothill neighborhoods just south of the Angeles National Forest.

The Bobcat Fire broke out a little after noon on Sept. 6 amid triple-digit temperatures near the Cogswell Dam and the West Fork Day Use area. The fire is churning through thick vegetation and dry brush in steep terrain, some of which has not burned in more 60 years.

The cause is under investigation.

The following evacuation alerts remain in place:

Evacuation Orders:

  • Residences within the area north of Angeles Crest North and between Clear Creek Station and Hwy 39.
  • A Red Cross Evacuation Center has been established at Santa Anita Park, located at 285 W. Huntington Dr. in Arcadia. To reach Red Cross LA, call 1-800-675-5799.

Evacuation Warnings:

  • The foothill communities of Monrovia, Bradbury, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Altadena, Duarte and Pasadena.
  • Residents north of Foothill Blvd. and east of Santa Anita Ave.
  • Residents of Juniper Hills, South of Fort Tejon Rd East of 96th St. East, and south of Valyermo Rd. west of Bobs Gap Rd.
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.