August 29th: As the fires rage in Southern California, the “Station Fire” continues to burn unnervingly close to the famous Mount Wilson Observatory, about 50 miles east from my location. The above image was captured at 8:29pm (PST) tonight from the observatory’s 150-foot Solar Tower webcam (called the “Towercam”), and it’s pretty obvious how close the fire is.
Mount Wilson isn’t just important for the observatory, it is also home to telecommunication masts that are a lifeline for emergency services.
“If Mount Wilson goes out, this news conference is done, because we won’t have any telecommunications,” Deputy Los Angeles County Fire Chief Jim Powers said in a press conference this morning.
Update (August 30th, 19:40 PST): Things are looking a little grim for Mt. Wilson. A couple of hours ago, the LA Times reported that the Station Fire was expected to reach the summit of Mt. Wilson in 2-4 hours. The worst news is, that due to a lack of escape routes at the observatory, fire crews will have to abandon the site should the fire get too close.
“It’s a serious situation,” said Bob Shindelar, operations branch director of California Incident Management Team 5. “Is the observatory going to make it? We’re doing everything in our power. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it is impacted by fire today or tomorrow.”
At 17:42 PST, the fire was within 2 miles of the summit and closing. Fire crews have been working on removing brush from the observatory buildings, structures that cover many acres.
I was driving through Woodland Hills today, and the view from here was ominous. The smoke is thick, and a huge cumulus cloud was rising high in the atmosphere. At one point, the scene looked like a volcano from a distance.
Reports from the observatory itself however remain a little more upbeat than the LA Times with this update on their website:
The LA Times has released this article in the last hour. Our reports on site are not presently so dire, but the “fog of war” certainly exists in a situation like this. Every preparation is being made for this scenario, and it may indeed yet happen. I remain optimistic for now.
Lets hope the spreading fire slows before it reaches the observatory and telecommunication masts…
Thanks to Mike Brown (@plutokiller) for the link to the Towercam.