California wildfire threatens Wilson Observatory

Genesis cover

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One of the many wildfires raging across California has now come with 500 feet of the Mt. Wilson Observatory.

Officials at the observatory said all personnel had been evacuated as the fire was “knocking on our door.”

Firefighters battling the blaze had made slight headway in recent days in trying to control the flames that erupted September 6, but containment shrank from 6 percent to 3 percent Tuesday, according to the Angeles National Forest. “They are in a firefight right now, because it is so close,” LA County Fire Captain David Dantic told the Los Angeles Times, referring to crews positioned at Mt. Wilson.

He said the fire, located about 16 miles (25 kilometers) northeast of downtown Los Angeles, had grown to 40,000 acres (16,200 hectares). “It’s a bigger area now,” Dantic said. “Before, we had 6 percent containment when it was about 30,000 acres, but now the fire has gotten bigger. It’s a bigger footprint. That’s why the containment is down.”

KNX radio said the fire was also threatening broadcast towers in the area worth more than a billion dollars.

If destroyed I doubt seriously there would be money to rebuild Wilson, especially because its location near the bright lights of Los Angeles limits its astronomical value. Astronomers have shifted its use to other purposes that are not as badly affected by the light pollution, but once gone it will be hard to raise the cash to bring it back.


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  • wayne

    this captures the magnitude quite well–>

    Sept 13-14th, Bobcat Fire, east of Mt. Wilson Observatory
    >time-lapse film
    Hans-Werner Braun

  • Max

    Everything is burning down because of climate change… 5min

    Lots of videos of arsonist on this ugetube including a person in a hot air balloon filming themselves dropping gasoline bombs on the forest.

  • LocalFluff

    The telescopes are presumably on a hill top. How hard can it be to cut down nearby trees and burn the bushes in a controlled way to make it safe? “Leaving the telescope?” 100 years ago an astronomer would never do that!

  • Edward

    LocalFluff asked: “The telescopes are presumably on a hill top. How hard can it be to cut down nearby trees and burn the bushes in a controlled way to make it safe?

    Physically? Not hard at all. Politically? Impossible. This is California, where our fearful leaders are so environmentally correct that they will not let anyone remove even the dead trees, much less the living ones. Controlled burns are considered so terrible that they are very limited, too. The fire fighters have a different viewpoint, but they are not the ruling class and have little say in the matter.

    The globe has not warmed in two decades, yet global warming continues to be blamed for various problems that have been caused or exacerbated by bad policies, policies that we have known for decades or centuries to be bad. We know how to successfully run a country or a state, but many places keep reelecting people who do the opposite. How smart are we?

  • Col Beausabre

    To amplify Edward’s comments, the lack of controlled burns has resulted in the underbrush being a tangle of dead, dried tree limbs and other material that is perfect tinder for wildfires. And it’s not like this is a surprise, I live 3000 miles away on the East Coast and have been hearing comments about how lack of proper management has turned the West’s forests into tinderboxes for decades. Fire is a natural part of a forest – it clears out the debris, releases nutrients into the ground and they and access to sunlight provide for a new generation of trees. Unfortunately, Bambi and Smoky have a lot to answer for.

  • Max

    To amplify Col Beausabre and Edward’s comments;
    I worked for the BLM in the late 70s as part of the summer YCC program in high school.
    We would use two dozers pulling a battleship anchor chain between them to rail down 2 hundred foot wide strips of forest (cedar and Pine trees in southern Utah) as a fire break.
    The land would be seeded with grass for deer and cattle to increase the fees for grazing rights and hunting permits.
    People would cut up the trees for firewood or sale, and use the cedar trees for fence posts/cedar chest/fancy closets because it would naturally resist rotting and insects.
    All the environmentalists could see was ugly human caused devastation. You should see it after a fire clears out the entire mountain side.
    In some cases, the environmentalists won’t even let you remove the dead burned trees because you might run over the fragile new vegetation, if any.
    It reminds me the stories I’ve heard of buddhist priests who oversees every construction to remove ants and worms so they won’t be harmed.
    Bacteria is living too, I wonder if they take antibiotics? (anti-life)

  • wayne

    Yes, on top of a mountain–watch the video-link on the Bobcat fire to get a sense of the geography. (some times, my links are worth clicking! :) )

  • Max

    The latest word is, as the fire got to close, firefighters used bulldozers to clear out vegetation. Back fires were set to preserve the hilltop.

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