A fire in Southern California roared toward the historic Mt. Wilson Observatory on Tuesday as an unprecedented fire season continued to rage over much of the west coast, officials said.
The Bobcat fire was within 500 meters of the observatory, which was founded in 1904 and once had some of the largest operational telescopes in the world, the U.S. Forest Service said shortly after noon.
“#BOBCATFIRE knocks on our door,” the observatory tweeted Monday night, noting that all staff had been evacuated.
Photos tweeted by the service Tuesday showed a massive smoke nozzle rising from the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles, where the observatory is located at an approximately 5,700-foot peak.
The fire, which ignited on Sept. 6, had grown to more than 41,000 acres by Tuesday, the forest service said. Nearly 1,100 employees fought the fire.
The service said a C-130 aircraft dropped thousands of gallons of retardant Tuesday afternoon to stop the spread of the fire. An image tweeted by the observatory showed a series of wilderness firefighters crossing a suspension bridge from the hundred-year-old 100-inch Hooker telescope.
“We sincerely thank the firefighters who are on the ground and defend our observatory as well as pilots flying aircraft for firefighting,” the observatory said.
The observatory is where pioneering astronomer Edwin Hubble in 1925 showed that the Milky Way is one of many galaxies. Four years later, Hubble was at Mt. Wilson when he confirmed that the universe is still expanding.
Bobcat Fire is one of 25 major fires in the state. A record 3.2 million acres have been burned in California this year, and thousands of buildings have been destroyed. Twenty-five people have died according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or CalFire.
Government officials have blamed a combination of climate change and a build-up of dehydrated vegetation for the dozens of fires that have burned the state.
Massive flames have also swept across the northwest Pacific, destroying cities and killing 10 people in Oregon and Washington State.
Meteorologists said Tuesday that a fog that settled over a wide swath of the east coast was smoke that had come east from the fire.
Associated Press the contribution.