PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The battle to save Mount Wilson Observatory from the raging Bobcat Fire continued Monday evening, firefighting officials said at a virtual public meeting. More than two weeks since it began, the growing blaze had consumed more than 106,000 acres.
Containment was at 17% and rising as of Monday evening, according to Incident Commander Jerry McGowan. “That’s good news," he said. "However, there were 219 miles of (fire) line we had to go around.”
Vince Pena from the Los Angeles County Fire Department said the Bobcat Fire destroyed 18 buildings and damaged 11, and as many as 85 were potentially affected. A count is likely to be completed by midweek. He said the fire was projected to be contained around Oct. 30, labeling that an "objective, middle-of-the-road date."
The fire forced the evacuation of about 1,100 households and 4,000 people, a number that was growing as of Monday.
A firefighting force of 1,467 personnel, 227 engines, 18 bulldozers, six helicopters and an assortment of other equipment was dispatched to the blaze, building 71 miles of dozer lines and 15 miles of hand lines, McGowan said.
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Asked if that was enough, McGowan didn't hesitate. “The answer’s no," he said, "but keep in mind the Bobcat Fire’s not the only fire in the state of California or the western United States.”
As of Monday, more than 19,000 firefighters faced 27 major blazes around the state, according to Cal Fire data.
"Since the beginning of the year, there have been well over 7,900 wildfires that have burned over 3.6 million acres in California. Since August 15, when California’s fire activity elevated, there have been 26 fatalities and over 6,400 structures destroyed," according to a news release from the state agency.
Researchers and other experts blame the record-shattering fire season on a mix of factors ranging from a century of over-zealous fire suppression to climate change drying out vegetation and raising temperatures.
"The scary thing about all this is we haven’t even begun our Santa Ana wind periods in Southern California," said Daryl Osby, fire chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The strong Santa Ana winds bring hot, dry weather to Southern California in the fall, creating intense fire conditions.
"We’re in extreme conditions right now," Patrick Doyle, a fire behavior analyst with the California incident management team, said Monday. He said grass was so dry it was "like gasoline."
McGowan said the battle against the blaze was challenging as it occurred in steep terrain around the Angeles National Forest.Air support was temporarily grounded Monday after an unidentified flying object entered the fire's air space. He said that if private citizens pilot drones in the area, "that hampers us greatly, so I would appreciate it if people did not do that.”
Officials said the fire line seemed to hold along the southern end of the fire, but concern remained around the northwest and northeast portions. San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to Wrightwood to assist in case of an evacuation. The fire line was 5 to 10 miles west of San Bernardino County as of Monday.
The American Red Cross set up a temporary evacuation point at Palmdale High School, and a spokesperson said it has assisted more than 170 people.
Mark Olalde covers the environment for The Desert Sun. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter at @MarkOlalde.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Bobcat Fire in LA threatens Mount Wilson, 18 buildings destroyed