Fire Fighters Will Defend Mount Wilson Observatory Overnight [Update]

The view looking west from Mt. Wilson Observatory at 8:17pm PST (Aug. 30th)
The view looking west from Mt. Wilson Observatory at 8:17pm PST (Aug. 30th)

Update: Monday, August 31st, 05:45 PDT: In the early hours of Monday morning, it would appear the situation atop Mt. Wilson remains the same. The Towercam is showing smoke and fires to the West of the summit, but there is no further breaking news from the Observatory:

Monday, 31 Aug 09, 4:50 am PDT – No reports from the mountain yet this morning. Towercam shows new fire encroachment. The Inciweb update is eight hours old – 42,500 acres, 2,575 personnel – and two fire fighters lost.Mt. Wilson Observatory

Sunday, August 30th, 20:30 PDT: According to the Mt. Wilson Observatory fire updates, fire crews have decided to remain at the summit of Mt. Wilson to fight the Station Fire blaze overnight. There were concerns this evening that the conditions would be too treacherous for the fire fighters to remain behind, but it would appear this has changed.

Sunday, 30 Aug 09, 8:07 pm PDT – A critical aspect to the survivability of the Observatory should the fire sweep across it is whether or not fire fighters will be on site during such an event. The U.S. Forest Service continually assesses the danger to fire fighters in any scenario and will withdraw fire crews in situations that are particularly precarious. Such an evaluation took place on Mount Wilson in the last half hour with the decision for the fire crews to remain in place tonight. That’s very good news.Mt. Wilson Observatory

But the fire continues and Mike Brown, an astronomer who lives near (but doesn’t work at) Mt. Wilson, tweeted his eye witness account of his view of the fire: “Holy smokes; massive glowing plume tonight just west of Mt. Wilson is scarier than last nights 50 ft flames. #stationfire.”

Unfortunately, in another location, two fire fighters have tragically lost their lives fighting a blaze in Acton. According to reports from @CalFireNews and the LA Times the fire fighters were involved in an accident where their vehicle apparently rolled over a mountainside. The accident happened during a period of intense fire fighting.

This is a horrific reminder that hundreds of brave men and women are currently out there battling against hellish heat and poisonous air. My thoughts are with the lost fire fighters families and the fire fighters that continue to push on through the night atop Mt. Wilson and the areas hit hard by the Station Fire.

Updates pending…

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10 thoughts on “Fire Fighters Will Defend Mount Wilson Observatory Overnight [Update]”

  1. Hey Ian, thanks for the updates. Looks like they've pulled the firefighters this morning…”Monday, 31 Aug 09, 7:50 am PDT – …Thus, the good news is that the fire in the Observatory's vicinity seems to have diminished. The bad news is that there are no fire fighters presently on the scene.”http://www.mtwilson.edu/fire.php

    1. Hey Nicole, thanks for that! Just done another post with those updates 🙂 Prepping a big news post on Space Disco now… wow, it's been hectic over here!Hope all is great with you :)Cheers, Ian

  2. Tuesday (9-1) I’m listening to the latest news on the southern California wildfire sagas, when I hear that the Mt. Wilson Observatory was potentially threatened.My first thought was geez don’t tell me ….
    so I clicked on GoogleEarth and typed in Mt.Wilson Observatory.
In it zoomed and it was like getting punched in the belly – sure as poop the forest practically rubs up against some of the buildings.Since then my mind keeps returning to thinking about all those smart people: the scientists, administrators, planners, grounds keepers, maintenance, or all those others who drove up and down that road; the dignitaries, the rich and powerful, the media, politicians and the public, this past decade.All those eyes and minds that surveyed the scene, year after year, season after season of steadily intensifying southern Cal wildfires. Yet, no one thought to impose a quarter mile of Defensive Space between the jewels and the tinderbox?This National Treasure and home to probably better than a billion dollars worth of scientific instruments and no defensive space against an inevitable wildfire?What is going on? Is everyone so sure God is on their side? Or, do people just not care about seriously considering the reality of future years?It reminded me of W Bush’s immortal words upon visiting the New Orleans’ Katrina Levee Engineering Disaster: “No one could have ever imagined such a thing happening.”When are we going to start recognizing the Earth under our feet?

    1. Actually, that's a very, very good point.I was surprised not more attention was paid to fire defence. I also thought that lighting the backfires as the Station Fire was approaching was almost like shutting the gate after the horse had bolted! Why hadn't the brush been cleared before now? I suppose it comes down to complacency. There hadn't been a fire there for 60 years, so people tend to forget.However, interestingly, in the UK, our national forests have regular grid-like cleared tracks to slow the spread of any potential wildfire. But the UK sees so much rain and un-wildfire-like weather that it seems laughable that we would prepare for such an event! Still, if a prolonged heatwave should hit, at least we'd be prepared and minimal fire damage would be caused.Thanks for stopping by!

      1. If the US works in any similarity to Portugal, and in some issues it does seem to work quite similarly indeed, then it comes down to one thing only: money.Brush clearing is known for many years to be one of the most effective measures to slow down the spread of wildfires (that's what backfires do, basically; they are low-intensity fires that burn the brush while hopefully leaving the trees unscathed), and a defensive area of clear ground around human-built structures is obviously the best way to protect them after a wildfire hits, but you need money to pay the people to do that work. Even the protection area has to be maintained, and large-scale brush clearing is a work-intensive business, which may actually be rather dangerous if the area in question is overly mountainous. People would have to be well paid. And there is no money to pay them.At least in Europe, this used to be done by the nearby residents, gathering wood for their fireplaces and cooking. The European forest was adapted to this sustainable human exploration, and now it's in increased danger because it ceased. That's part of the reason why recent wildfires atround the Mediterranean area have been so common and devastating. I don't think the same is true regarding American forests, particularly in the west, but the same kind of exploration might be in order.The problem is: there's no money. To be gained by it and to do it non-profitably.

  3. If the US works in any similarity to Portugal, and in some issues it does seem to work quite similarly indeed, then it comes down to one thing only: money.Brush clearing is known for many years to be one of the most effective measures to slow down the spread of wildfires (that's what backfires do, basically; they are low-intensity fires that burn the brush while hopefully leaving the trees unscathed), and a defensive area of clear ground around human-built structures is obviously the best way to protect them after a wildfire hits, but you need money to pay the people to do that work. Even the protection area has to be maintained, and large-scale brush clearing is a work-intensive business, which may actually be rather dangerous if the area in question is overly mountainous. People would have to be well paid. And there is no money to pay them.At least in Europe, this used to be done by the nearby residents, gathering wood for their fireplaces and cooking. The European forest was adapted to this sustainable human exploration, and now it's in increased danger because it ceased. That's part of the reason why recent wildfires atround the Mediterranean area have been so common and devastating. I don't think the same is true regarding American forests, particularly in the west, but the same kind of exploration might be in order.The problem is: there's no money. To be gained by it and to do it non-profitably.

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