Bobcat Fire destroys nature center at Devil’s Punchbowl area described as ‘geological wonder’

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A nature center at Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area destroyed by the Bobcat Fire. (L.A. Department of Parks and Recreation.)

A nature center at Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area destroyed by the Bobcat Fire. (L.A. Department of Parks and Recreation.)

The Bobcat Fire raging for more than two weeks in the Angeles National Forest has destroyed a nature center at a geological attraction in Devil’s Punchbowl, officials said Saturday.

The wind-driven blaze spread to the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area, a 1,310-acre “geological wonder” that draws some 130,000 visitors every year, according to the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation.

Officials said they’re deeply saddened by the loss of the nature center.

The facility hosted educational programming on native wildlife and park history. “It was truly a gem of education for our youth and residents of the County,” the department said.

All the animals had been evacuated earlier in the week and no injuries were reported.

“Remarkably, the Wildlife Sanctuary staff office appears to have survived, with several pinyon pines, junipers and manzanita trees surrounding the park area,” the department said. “May this serve as a beacon of hope.”

Those visiting the Devil’s Punchbowl could hike, enjoy horseback rides through a deep canyon, see up tilted rock formations, stargaze and walk through a landscape of Joshua trees, California Junipers, Pinyon Pine Woodland and Desert Chaparral shrubs.

Officials said they will assess structures and further damage to the area when they get access.

The Bobcat Fire has burned more than 99,400 acres since igniting Sept. 6 and was still just 15% contained Sunday. Fire activity has been more active on the fire’s northern perimeter, where strong winds fanned flames into the Antelope Valley’s remote communities. Several structures were destroyed.

The historic Mount Wilson Observatory was threatened by the fire, with flames raging just a few hundred feet away. Crews made progress on holding containment lines to the south in the San Gabriel Valley and protected the observatory from flareups overnight, the U.S. Forest Service said.

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