California’s Bobcat Fire not expected to be contained until Oct. 30; 4,000 forced to evacuate

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The battle to save Southern California’s Mount Wilson Observatory from the raging Bobcat Fire continued Monday evening, firefighting officials said at a virtual public meeting. Sixteen days since it began, the blaze continued to grow and had consumed more than 106,000 acres.© supplied via InciWeb Firefighters set a prescribed burn ahead of the Bobcat Fire.

Containment was at 17% and rising as of Monday evening, according to Incident Commander Jerry McGowan. “That’s good news,” he said. “However, there were 219 miles of (fire) line we had to go around.”

Vince Pena from the Los Angeles County Fire Department said that the Bobcat Fire had already destroyed 18 buildings and damaged 11 others, with as many as 85 potentially affected. A count was still underway and was expected to be completed by mid-week. He said that the fire was projected to be contained around Oct. 30, labeling that an “objective, middle-of-the-road date.”a tree with a mountain in the background: A tanker drops frame retardant near the Bobcat Fire.© supplied via InciWeb A tanker drops frame retardant near the Bobcat Fire.

In total, the fire has forced the evacuation of about 1,100 households and an estimated 4,000 people, a number that was still growing as of Monday.https://www.dianomi.com/smartads.epl?id=3533

A firefighting force of 1,467 personnel, 227 engines, 18 bulldozers, six helicopters and an assortment of other equipment had been dispatched to the blaze, managing to build 71 miles of dozer lines and 15 miles of hand lines, McGowan said.

But asked if that was enough, McGowan didn’t hesitate. “The answer’s ‘no,’” he said, “but keep in mind the Bobcat Fire’s not the only fire in the state of California or the western United States.”

As of Monday, more than 19,000 firefighters were facing 27 major blazes around the state, according to Cal Fire data.

“Since the beginning of the year, there have been well over 7,900 wildfires that have burned over 3.6 million acres in California. Since August 15, when California’s fire activity elevated, there have been 26 fatalities and over 6,400 structures destroyed,” according to a press release from the state agency.a group of people in a forest: Firefighters construct a handline to battle the Bobcat Fire.© supplied via InciWeb Firefighters construct a handline to battle the Bobcat Fire.

Researchers and other experts blame the record-shattering fire season on a mix of factors ranging from a century of over-zealous fire suppression to climate change drying out vegetation and raising temperatures.

“The scary thing about all this is we haven’t even begun our Santa Ana wind periods in Southern California,” said Daryl Osby, fire chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Santa Ana winds are strong, extremely dry downslope winds that bring hot, dry weather to Southern California in the fall, creating intense fire conditions.

“We’re in extreme conditions right now,” Patrick Doyle, a fire behavior analyst with the California incident management team, said Monday. He added that grass around Southern California was so dry that it was “like gasoline.”

McGowan said that the battle against the blaze was challenging as it occurred in steep terrain around the Angeles National Forest. In addition, air support was temporarily grounded on Monday after an unidentified flying object entered the fire’s air space. He said that if private citizens pilot drones in the area, “that hampers us greatly, so I would appreciate it if people did not do that.”

Officials said the fire line seemed to be holding along the southern end of the fire, but concern remained around the northwest and northeast portions. Additional San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies had been dispatched to Wrightwood to assist in case of an evacuation, if that order were to come. The fire line was still 5 to 10 miles west of San Bernardino County as of Monday.

The American Red Cross has set up a temporary evacuation point at Palmdale High School, and a spokesperson said they have assisted more than 170 people.

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