Bobcat Fire: Containment of 114K-acre blaze increases to 63%; 138 buildings destroyed

U.S. Forest Service officials are investigating 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.
Firefighters worked to increase containment Saturday from 55% to 63% for the 114,082-acre Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest, which has burned for nearly three weeks and threatened communities in the Antelope Valley and San Gabriel Valley foothills.

Some 1,554 personnel assigned to the fire spent the night patrolling the fire area and putting out hot spots, U.S. Forest Service officials said. Priority areas for the weekend included Mt. Wilson to Highway 2, Dorr Canyon and Rock Creek Road to ensure containment lines will hold if Santa Ana winds forecast for early next week materialize.

Full containment of the fire, which was previously estimated for Oct. 30, has been moved up an entire month to Sept. 30, according Angeles National Forest officials.

"Residents will continue to see smoke from burning islands within the perimeters. Engines will remain available in the north for smoke checks near the communities,'' Forest Service officials said.

VIDEO: Bobcat Fire spawns 'smokenado' near Big Pine amid strong winds
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A "smokenado" was captured on camera twisting into the sky near Big Pines as the nearly 100,000-acre Bobcat Fire continued to rage.



Evacuation orders remained for:
-- 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 orders were lifted Friday and changed to evacuation warnings for Antelope Valley residents who live:
-- South of Fort Tejon Road and East Avenue W-14, east of 87th Street East, west of 165th Street East and Devil's Punchbowl, and north of the forest and Big Pines Highway;
-- South of Highway 138, east of 165th Street, west of Largo Vista Road, and north of Big Pines Highway.

Other evacuation warnings remained for:
-- South of Big Pines Highway, east of Largo Vista Road, west of 263rd Street E. (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;
-- Unincorporated community of Wrightwood.

Evacuation warnings for Altadena and Pasadena issued on Sept. 8 were lifted, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Repopulation orders went into effect at 2 p.m. Thursday for residents in the East Fork areas of Julius Klein Conservation Camp 19, Camp Williams and River Community, the sheriff's department reported.

About 7 a.m. Thursday, evacuation warnings were changed to a "repopulation order'' with "no restrictions'' for the following areas:
-- Clear Areas: north of East Avenue W-14, south of Pearblossom Highway, east of 155th Street East, west of 165th Street East;
-- Sand Areas: north of Big Pine Highway and Highway 2, south of 138th Street East, east of Largo Vista Road, west of 263rd Street. The southwestern region of the Sand Area may have power outages.
-- Ward Areas: north of Fort Tejon Road, south of East Avenue V, east of 87th Street East, west of 121st Street East.

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The Red Cross evacuation centers at Palmdale High School and Santa Anita Park are now closed. Anyone still needing assistance was advised to call the Disaster Distress Hotline at 800-675-5799.

A South Coast Air Quality Management District's smoke advisory was extended through Saturday afternoon, with winds expected to push northeast and east into the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains.

"It is difficult to tell where smoke, ash or soot from a fire will go, or how winds will affect the level of these particles in the air, so we ask everyone to remember that smoke and ash can be harmful to health, even for people who are healthy,'' said Dr. Muntu Davis, health officer for Los Angeles County. "If you can see smoke, soot, or ash, or you can smell smoke, pay attention to your immediate environment and take precautions to safeguard your health. These precautions are particularly important for children, older adults, and people with heart or lung diseases.''

U.S. Forest Service officials are investigating 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.

Bobcat Fire: SCE utility equipment eyed as possible source of blaze in San Gabriel Mountains
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Federal investigators are looking into whether the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest was sparked by Southern California Edison utility equipment, according to the company.



Firefighters earlier this week successfully set backfires, including from the air, to destroy vegetation fueling the blaze and protect the Mount Wilson Observatory and several broadcast and telecommunications towers.

A closure order has been issued for national forests in Southern California, including the Angeles National Forest, which will be closed through Oct. 1, the U.S. Forest Service said.

Flames have destroyed 138 structures and affected another 30, with eight sustaining minor damage and five major damage, according to a damage assessment provided by Los Angeles County officials. That map, which is compiled from ongoing field damage inspection and subject to change, can be viewed at lacounty.gov/recovery/damage-inspection/.

Of the buildings destroyed, 65 were residential, one was commercial and 72 were described as "other.''

The Nature Center at the Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area was burned by the fire, Los Angeles County parks officials said. The area is closed until further notice.

The fire has burned more acres than the Woolsey Fire of 2018, which scorched 96,271 acres. The Station Fire in 2009 burned 160,577 acres.

The Bobcat Fire erupted on Sept. 6 near the Cogswell Dam and West Fork Day Use area northeast of Mount Wilson and within the Angeles National Forest.

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City News Service contributed to this report.
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