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New evacuations as Bobcat fire jumps north, firefighters battle at famed observatory

By Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES - The Bobcat fire continued shapeshifting overnight, expanding to the northeast, while all eyes remain on the southern foothill communities and the Mount Wilson Observatory to the west.

The blaze in the Angeles National Forest has charred 44,393 acres and remained at 3% containment Wednesday morning, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The fire jumped the 2 Freeway on Tuesday evening and ignited a spot fire that has burned nearly 1,000 acres.

In response, new evacuation orders were issued for residences north of Angeles Crest North and between Clear Creek Station and Highway 39.

Los Angeles County Fire Capt. David Dantic said dry brush and steep terrain are the main reasons for the fire's erratic behavior.

"The fire is finding places to go through ridges, down (wind channels) and drainages, and it's getting to new areas," Dantic said. "That's why we're constantly working on putting a perimeter around it. But it has been challenging. There are some places we can't get to."

On Tuesday, flames came dangerously close to Mount Wilson, at one time reaching less than 500 feet from the famed observatory. The Forest Service credited strategic hand- and bulldozer-dug lines with creating a "strong protection point" for the observatory and said fire crews had a "good night last night," although Dantic said they are "not out of the woods yet."

 

"There is a possibility that the fire could go back up north toward Mount Wilson, because it's just a little bit south of there and east," he said Wednesday morning. "We have structure defense groups, and we're trying to protect any property that we can."

The observatory isn't the only structure threatened by the blaze. In the forest's Big Santa Anita Canyon, officials said they feared 80 historic cabins, along with the 1893-built Sturtevant Camp, may have been destroyed.

"We think we lost most of it," said Deb Burgess, cabin owner and president of the Sturtevant Camp board.

The cabins are made of wood and rock, and are preserved as such under Forest Service rules, said Ben Fitzsimmons, president of Big Santa Anita Canyon Permittees Association, who added that it is "unlikely that this 100-year-old community has survived unscathed."

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