The wildfire that has been stubbornly burning in the Angeles National Forest for nearly three weeks has destroyed at least 52 structures, including many homes in the Juniper Hills area, according to a county estimate on Wednesday.
Officials have conducted damage inspections on 70 structures in the northern end of the Bobcat Fire, on the Antelope Valley foothills. Thirty-eight of them are residential structures, 27 of which have been destroyed.
L.A. County provided the estimate as weaker winds, cooler temperatures and higher humidities helped firefighters more than double their containment of the fire. The conditions also allowed for the repopulation of some areas affected by the blaze that at one point threatened more than 1,000 homes.
The fire has charred more than 113,300 acres, or about 177 square miles, making it the third largest blaze recorded in L.A. County since 1900, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
It was 38% contained as of Wednesday morning, up from 17% the previous evening.
Overnight, firefighters completed strategic firing to link the fire’s containment line from Mount Wilson to Highway 2, again protecting critical telecommunication satellites in the area.
“We do have warmer conditions later this afternoon and into the weekend, so while we have the weather in our favor, we’re going to take advantage of it and do some more good work out on the line,” said L.A. County Fire Department spokesman Pono Barnes.
He warned that “conditions can change in a moment’s notice,” so crews will continue to patrol the northern edge of the fire near the Antelope Valley foothills on Wednesday.
Firefighters are also working to prevent flames from spreading further on land that hasn’t burned in 40 or 50 years.
“There’s still a lot of open ground,” said Oscar Vargas, a division chief with the U.S. Forest Service.
More than 1,500 firefighting personnel remain assigned to the fire.
Officials urged those affected to follow the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department on Twitter for updates on evacuations.
The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at Palmdale High School at 2137 E. Avenue R. Those with large animals can bring them to the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds at 2551 W. Avenue H in Lancaster. The county said Tuesday that it has more than 400 animals in its care as the Bobcat Fire continued to burn.
The blaze erupted during record-breaking heat on Sept. 6 near Cogswell Dam above Azusa.
It threatened foothill communities in the San Gabriel Valley before winds pushed the fire north toward remote communities of the Antelope Valley.
What sparked the flames is still unclear, but authorities are focusing their investigation on Southern California Edison equipment around the dam.