The Bobcat fire is approaching 100,000 acres, making it one of the largest wildfires in Los Angeles County history, and continues to threaten some desert communities as well as the Mt. Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains on Sunday.
The fire is no longer bearing down on foothill communities like Arcadia and Monrovia, but it is moving into some remote areas in the Antelope Valley, destroying homes and prompting numerous evacuations, officials said.
“We’re still in the thick of a good firefight,” Andrew Mitchell, public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service, said Sunday.
There were flare-ups overnight around Mt. Wilson, but firefighters on the ground and in the air were able to prevent any losses there, officials said.
The fire has burned 99,428 acres and is only 15% contained, officials said. Winds could kick up again Sunday, but fire officials said with lower temperatures and calmer winds expected Monday and Tuesday, this might give them a chance to get the upper hand on the blaze.
“I think the next couple days we’ll start to really get a handle on this fire because the conditions will be right and we’ll be able to really start backing it with all our assets,” Mitchell said. He noted the number of people fighting the fire has steadily increased, with help coming from as far away as New York.
Several homes in the remote foothills community of Juniper Hills were lost, authorities said. The extent of the destruction wasn’t immediately clear.
Crews still hadn’t been able to go out and perform a damage assessment as of Sunday morning, as firefighters were continuing to defend homes from flames, said Larry Smith, public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.
“At this time we’re just focusing on catching this thing,” Smith said.
One of those who lost his home was Roland Pagan.
“The ferocity of this fire was shocking,” said Pagan, 80, who stood on a nearby hill and peered through binoculars, watching his house in Juniper Hills collapse in flames. “It burned my house alive in just 20 minutes.”
Though the fire approached the high desert community of Valyermo, a Benedictine monastery there appeared to have escaped major damage.
There are now more than 1,600 firefighters on the lines. They have relied on helicopters and water-dropping airplanes to deal with heat, erratic winds, low humidity and flames sweeping across vast swaths of inaccessible mountain terrain.
At just under 100,000 acres, the Bobcat fire is one of L.A. County’s largest fires. L.A. County’s largest fire, the Station in 2009, burned 160,000 acres in the same Angeles National Forest area but killed two firefighters and destroyed more than 200 structures.
The 2018 Woolsey fire burned 96,000 acres but destroyed more than 1,600 structures and killed three people.
The 1970 Clampitt fire in the northern San Fernando Valley burned 105,000 acres and killed four people.