Bobcat Fire smolders in Angeles National Forest as forest closure order expires

The Bobcat Fire continues to burn through the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County, north of Azusa, California, September 17, 2020. (Photo by KYLE GRILLOT/AFP via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Containment of the Bobcat Fire smoldering in the Angeles National Forest was up to 92% Sunday, as more than 300 firefighters continued to work the 115,796-acre blaze that's been burning for over a month.

 "Crews will still be actively mopping up in the Mt. Wilson and Juniper Hills area. Residents might see some smoke in the area. This is from unburnt islands of fuels within the containment area,'' according to a U.S. Forest Service statement. "Please do not call 911 if you see smoke in these areas. Also, residents of the Juniper Hills area should expect to see firefighters and equipment in the area."

On Oct.9, officials announced that the emergency closure order for the forest had expired.

"The (U.S. Forest Service) emergency closure order for the Angeles National Forest expired last night," ANF officials tweeted on Friday morning. "Much of the ANF reopens today, Oct 9. Please note: BURN ZONES remain CLOSED for public safety, fire recovery & restoration.  THANK YOU for your patience & understanding!"

The Mount Wilson Institute issued a statement the night of Oct. 8 to celebrate that the observatory had survived the fire, which at one point came within 20 feet of the historic facility.

"The 60-inch and 100-inch telescopes, which provided significant discoveries about the cosmos, were in danger of severe damage. The monastery, where astronomers and physicists stayed during their observing time, including founder George Ellery Hale, Edwin Hubble and Albert Einstein, was in danger of burning to the ground,'' said Sam Hale, the chairman of the Mount Wilson Institute's Board of Trustees.

"But that didn't happen. Mount Wilson Observatory didn't surrender to flames because courageous firefighters worked around the clock to preserve and defend this historic spot."

The Mount Wilson Institute had also prepared for wildfires by clearing invasive fire-prone vegetation around the 100-year-old buildings, replacing old hydrants and repairing and filling three large water tankers with water to be used during drought.

"Good stewardship and thinking ahead helped Mount Wilson Observatory survive the wildfire," Hale said.

Firefighters work the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest on September 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images) (Getty Images)

The estimated containment date was pushed back to Oct. 30. Officials had previously estimated full containment by Sept. 30.

A half-dozen injuries from the Bobcat Fire have been reported, according to the USFS. Flames have destroyed 170 structures and affected another 47 in the Antelope Valley area, with seven sustaining minor damage and five major damage, USFS officials said. Of the buildings destroyed, 87 were residential.

It remains unclear what caused the fire, but on Sept. 23, federal investigators revealed they were looking into an equipment issue experienced by Southern California Edison around the time the fire broke out to determine if it was a factor in sparking one of the largest wildfires in Los Angeles County history.

The utility says it was not responsible for starting the blaze, insisting that fire was detected by a camera on Mt. Wilson a few minutes before it experienced an equipment issue.

RELATED: Utility equipment eyed as possible source of massive Bobcat Fire burning in Angeles National Forest

The stubborn blaze erupted on Sept. 6 near the Cogswell Dam and West Fork Day Use area. Firefighters initially reported the fire was burning in heavy fuels with a rapid rate of spread.


All evacuation orders have been changed to warnings and, as of Friday, Oct. 9, were in effect in the following areas:

• In Paradise Springs -- south of Big Pines Highway, east of Devil's Punchbowl, west of Largo Vista Road, and north of the forest;
• South and west of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon, east of Angeles Forest Highway, and north of Angeles Crest Highway;
• Residences along Angeles Crest Highway, between Angeles Forest Highway and Highway 39.

Evacuation warnings were lifted for the following areas:
• South of Big Pines Highway, east of Largo Vista Road, west of 263rd Street East (county line), and north of the forest;
• South of Mt. Emma Road, north of Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, east of Angeles Forest Highway, and west of Pacifico Mountain;
• East Fork Areas: Julius Klein Conservation Camp 19, Camp Williams and the River Community;

A Red Cross evacuation center was established at Santa Anita Race Track at 285 W. Huntington Drive. Residents were advised to enter through Gate 5. More information about the center is available at 1-800-RED-CROSS (733-2767).

Anyone still needing assistance is urged to call the Disaster Distress Hotline at 800-675-5799.

Road Closures:

• Big Santa Anita Rd (the Chantry road);
• Big Rock Creek Road remains closed at Big Pines Highway;
• Highway 2 at Angeles Forest Highway and Vincent Gap; and
• Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road is closed at Angeles Forest Highway

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The Bobcat Fire was one of several fires that sparked across the region as parts of California saw record-breaking temperatures over Labor Day weekend. Temperatures in the forest were well above 100 degrees as a hit wave struck Southern California. 

Fire crews were sent to an area near the dam and West Fork Day Use area at 12:22 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 6, according to a Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatcher.

The fire generated a pyrocumulus cloud that was seen for miles, across many parts of Los Angeles County. After the fire erupted, firefighters reported experiencing erratic fire behavior.

Structures were threatened, according to Angeles National Forest officials, who initially sent five engines, three hand crews, four helicopters, five fixed-wing aircraft and two water tenders to battle the blaze.

FOX 11's Shelly Insheiwat, Christina Gonzalez, Mary Stringini, Mario Ramirez and CNS contributed to this report.