LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Bobcat Fire has increased in size to 113,307 acres, but containment has also increased — to 38% — and officials Wednesday said backfires were successfully set by firefighters, including from the air, to protect the Mt. Wilson Observatory and several broadcast and telecommunications towers.
“Last night crews completed the strategic firing operation north from Mt. Wilson to Hwy 2 and then east to the fire perimeter,” Angeles National Forest Service officials said in a statement Wednesday. The backfires were set from Mt. Wilson down to Redbox Road.
Reduced winds, lower temperatures and higher humidity reduced fire activity Tuesday, but Wednesday brought warmer and drier conditions that were expected to continue Thursday, with southwesterly and up canyon winds, according to the National Weather Service.
The fire, one of the largest in Los Angeles County history, is burning in the Angeles National Forest and threatening communities in the Antelope Valley and San Gabriel Valley foothills.
Flames have destroyed 52 structures and affected another 14, with three suffering minor damage and one suffering major damage, according to a damage assessment provided by Los Angeles County officials. That map, which is compiled from ongoing field damage inspection and subject to change, can be viewed at https://lacounty.gov/recovery/damage-inspection/.
Of the 52 buildings destroyed, 27 were identified as residential, one as commercial and 24 as “other.”
The fire has burned more acres than the Woolsey Fire of 2018, which scorched 96,271 acres, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said Tuesday. The Station Fire in 2009 burned 160,577 acres.
The fire came down from the Angeles National Forest into Cima Mesa, Juniper Hills, Pearblossom and Devil’s Punchbowl on Friday and damaged some structures, Vince Pena of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said Monday evening.
The Nature Center at the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area was burned by the fire, Los Angeles County parks officials said. The area is closed until further notice.
The U.S. Forest Service reported Tuesday afternoon that the defensive firing operation was “going well at Mt. Wilson. They’re using aerial ignitions to increase the buffer between HWY 2 near Barley Flat to Big Tujunga Road.”
Evacuation orders were lifted and changed to warnings for the following areas:
— Clear Areas: north of East Avenue W-14, south of Pearblossom Highway, east of 155th Street East, west of 165th Street East;
— Sand Areas: north of Big Pine Highway and Highway 2, south of 138th Street East, east of Largo Vista Road, west of 263rd Street. The southwestern region of the Sand Area may have power outages.
— Ward Areas: north of Fort Tejon Road, south of East Avenue V, east of 87th Street East, west of 121st Street East.
Evacuation orders remained in place for residents:
— along Angeles Crest Highway, between Angeles Forest Highway and Highway 39;
— in the unincorporated areas and communities of Juniper Hills, Crystal Lake, East Fork of the San Gabriel River, Camp Williams, Valyermo and Llano (except for the Longview section, which is under an evacuation warning);
— south and west of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, east of Angeles Forest Highway and north of Angeles Crest Highway
The following areas remained under evacuation warnings, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department:
— Pasadena and Altadena: north of Sierra Madre Boulevard, west of Michillinda Avenue, east of Washington Boulevard, north of New York Drive, as well as north of New York Drive and Woodbury Drive, east of Hahamongna Watershed Park;
— Littlerock: south of Pearblossom Highway, north of Weber Ranch Road, east of Cheseboro Road, west of 87th Street East;
— south of Highway 2, north of Blue Ridge Truck Trail, east of Highway 39, and west of the Los Angeles County border;
— Longview: 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;
— 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.
A closure order has been issued for national forests in Southern California, including the Angeles National Forest.
A smoke advisory was extended through Thursday warning of unhealthy air due to the fire.
“It is difficult to tell where smoke, ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of these particles in the air, so we ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, health officer for Los Angeles County.
“If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell smoke, pay attention to your immediate environment and take precautions to safeguard your health. These precautions are particularly important for children, older adults, and people with heart or lung diseases.”
The South Coast Air Quality Management District said winds were predicted to move smoke from the Bobcat Fire to the northeast into the mountains of Los Angeles by Thursday afternoon, then out of the South Coast Air Basin.
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 has not been determined, but U.S. Forest Service officials are investigating an equipment issue experienced by Southern California Edison that happened around the time the fire broke out.
The utility said in papers filed with the California Public Utilities Commission last week that it would remove a specific section of SCE overhead conductor in the vicinity of Cogswell Dam as requested. SCE reported that “the Jarvis 12 kV circuit out of Dalton Substation experienced a relay operation at 12:16 p.m. on September 6,” but maintains that smoke had already been detected by a camera on Mount Wilson at 12:10 p.m. that day.
“While USFS has not alleged that SCE facilities were involved in the ignition of the Bobcat Fire, SCE submits this report in an abundance of caution given USFS’s interest in retaining SCE facilities in connection with its investigation,” the utility said.
A total of 1,556 personnel were assigned to the fire as of Wednesday. Full containment is not expected until Oct. 30.