Containment rises to 9% at 55,600-acre Bobcat Fire; evacuations ordered for Juniper Hills, Devil’s Punchbowl

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Firefighters were able to increase containment on the Bobcat Fire to 9% despite the blaze continuing to grow in Angeles National Forest Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service stated in an update Thursday evening.

The fire grew by more than 5,000 acres during the course of the day Thursday to reach 55,617 acres, or nearly 87 square miles. But crews were still able to better corral the flames, with the new containment figure up from 3% earlier in the day.

Firefighters continue work to keep the fire away from the Mount Wilson Observatory and local communities. Around 8 p.m., the observatory shared a photo from one of its cameras showing flames near the 116-year-old structure.

“#BobcatFire or back fire? We can’t tell from here, but we sure hope it’s the latter,” the institution wrote.

Fire officials said there was still a threat on Mount Wilson, but strategic burning was being used to protect infrastructure, along with hand crews and engine.

But the fire was most active Thursday on its north end, where it reached Juniper Hills and surrounding communities. Crews and aerial units were working to keep the flames south of Pearblossom, officials said.

On Thursday afternoon, evacuations were ordered for residents in the foothills north of the blaze, including Juniper Hills in the Antelope Valley and Devil’s Punchbowl.

Later Thursday night, a new evacuation warning was issued for the community of Wrightwood.

A previous evacuation warning for Juniper Hills included residents south of Fort Tejon Road and east of 96th Street, and for residents east and south of Valyermo Road west of Bobs Gap Road.

The foothill communities of Monrovia, Bradbury, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Altadena, Duarte and Pasadena also remain under an evacuation warning. Those under the warning are asked to be ready to evacuate immediately if ordered by officials.

A map from InciWeb shows the boundary of the Bobcat Fire on the morning of Sept. 17, 2020.
A map from InciWeb shows the boundary of the Bobcat Fire on the morning of Sept. 17, 2020.

Mandatory evacuations were lifted about 4 p.m. Wednesday for residents north of Elkins Avenue and East of Santa Anita Avenue in the communities of Arcadia and Sierra Madre.

One evacuation order remains in place for residences within the area north of Angeles Crest North and between Clear Creek Station and Highway 39.

An evacuation center is open at Santa Anita Park, located at 285 W. Huntington Drive in Arcadia.

The Mount Wilson Observatory continues to be a focus of firefighters Thursday, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Flames burned within 500 feet of the observatory earlier this week and continue to threaten the structure.

Officials stated there is still a “critical need for resources” in their efforts to contain the blaze.

Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated Wednesday that more help will be on the way as crews have gained a better handle on fires burning in Northern California.

Officials will be “able to put more resources on these other fires, including the Bobcat Fire,” Newsom said.

Poor air quality continues to be an issue as the fire has been burning for nearly two weeks.

The Bobcat Fire started on Sept. 6 near the Cogswell Dam and West Fork Day Use area. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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