Wildfire comes within 500 feet of famed California observatory where Hubble explored the universe

Flames from a wildfire in the Angeles National Forest outside of Los Angeles came within 500 feet of the Mount Wilson Observatory, the historic astronomic viewpoint where Edwin Hubble explored the universe.

Firefighters were in place to defend the structure from the flames, the U.S. Forest Service said Tuesday.

“The Bobcat Fire is within 500 ft of the Mt. Wilson Observatory & crews are in place ready to receive the fire,” forest officials said in a tweet Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. local time. “Strategic firing is taking place in the south where air operations are strengthening dozerlines.”

Creating “dozerlines” is a firefighting technique in which bulldozers remove plants and other flammable material to leave a line of bare soil and stop the fire from spreading.

All personnel from the observatory were evacuated due to the wildfire.

“The Bobcat Fire is knocking on our door,” the observatory said in a tweet Monday night. “Fire officials predicted that the fire would approach Mt. Wilson from Echo Rock. It looks like they are correct.”

By Tuesday night, the Angeles National Forest praised the firefighters’ work around the mountain. Firefighters installed hand and dozer lines and dropped water on the fire, “creating a strong protection point for Mt. Wilson,” the national forest said.

“Yesterday firefighters were successful in keeping the fire from impacting Mt. Wilson Observatory,” officials said in a report Wednesday morning.

Founded by astronomer George Ellery Hale in 1904, the Mount Wilson Observatory once boasted the world’s largest telescope, the 100-inch Hooker Telescope.

Edwin Hubble worked at the observatory for more than three decades and used the telescope to prove the existence of other galaxies outside the Milky Way. He also discovered that galaxies are moving away from the earth at a predictable rate, now known as Hubble’s Law, which is one of the underpinnings of the Big Bang theory.

The Bobcat Fire, which is burning in the mountains above the suburban L.A. communities of Arcadia, Sierra Madre, and Monrovia, has grown to more than 44,000 acres and is just 3% contained, forest officials said.

The growth of the fire Monday outpaced containment efforts and resulted in containment falling from 6% to 3%. More than 1,100 personnel are battling the blaze as of Wednesday morning.

“We’ve got a lot of dirty brush and dirty growth, lattered and layered, so it burns deep in there and climbs through the trees and down the hills,” Los Angeles County Fire Captain David Gillotte told CNN’s Kyung Lah on Tuesday. “Luckily we don’t have any wind driving it now.”

All 18 national forests in California, including the Angeles National Forest, are closed due to the extreme wildfire threat across the region.


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