The Bobcat wildfire is again threatening southern California’s Mount Wilson, home to a reported $1 billion worth of land, towers and broadcast and government agency transmission equipment. By Tuesday, at least 29 structures were destroyed in Los Angeles County. The number could reach 85, reported The Los Angeles Times.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Forest Service estimated the fire expanded to more than 113,000 acres. Tuesday night it was just 17 percent contained, however that number grew to 38 percent Wednesday, according to Angeles National Forest officials, City News Service in Monrovia reported.
Overnight aerial video Tuesday showed flames approaching broadcast towers at the top of the mountain, including 24 Los Angeles TV stations, such as KPCC, KTLA and KNBC. About nine FM radio station towers are sited on Mt. Wilson, including: KRRL, KIIS, KOST, KBIG, KCBS, KTWV, KRTH, KPCC and KKLQ, according to Wikipedia.
At least one radio owner went to great lengths to install a back-up transmitter, reported Inside Radio. Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters KKGO have operated from a Mt. Wilson transmitter since 1959. Concerned about the fire, company President Saul Levin told Inside Radio he had a duplicate transmitter installed on Flint Peak above LaCanada on the former KPWR tower. “Although an expensive means to stay on the air if Mt. Wilson is disrupted, it is a valuable back-up to allow KKGO to stay on the air through most emergencies,” Levine said.
Eight additional TV towers are sited on nearby Mt. Harvard. U.S. Forest Service public information officer Andrew Mitchell told the LA Times at least one spot fire broke out there, but was quickly contained by fire crews.
“Mt. Wilson is definitely critical,” Mitchell said Tuesday. “It’s something that we’re really putting a lot of effort into.”
The Forest Service said the fire’s encroachment on the mountaintop was because of “unfavorable wind conditions” as well as patches of dry fuels, such as conifer trees.
Lower temperatures and higher humidity levels Tuesday helped tamp down some of the fire’s activity, officials said in an update Tuesday evening. But they predicted that conditions would become hotter and drier Wednesday and today. They warned of “a significant warming and drying trend” beginning this weekend, along with a chance of “gusty northeast winds” that could affect fire conditions.
Fire officials don’t expect full containment until October 30.