The Bobcat Fire burning in the Angeles National Forest prompted new evacuation orders in the foothills of the Antelope Valley Saturday, as an unknown number of homes were destroyed and firefighters braced for an evening fight made tougher by the possibility of wind gusts of up to 30 miles an hour.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Saturday afternoon that all residents were ordered to leave in an "evacuation box" south of 138th Street East, north of Big Pine Highway and Highway 2, west of 263rd East, and east of Largo Vista Road.
The fire had scorched 91,017 acres and remained at 15% containment Saturday, with full containment not estimated until Oct. 30.
Evacuation orders were issued Friday for residents:
- north of Angeles Crest North and between Clear Creek Station and Hwy 39
- east of Devils Punch Bowl Road, South of the Big Pines Hwy, North of the Big Rock Creek, and West of Jackson Lake
- south of Pearblossom Hwy (SR138), North of Big Pines, East of 165th and west of Largo Vista Road
- north of Fort Tejon Road, South of Avenue V, East of 87th E., West of 121 St East
- south of Avenue 12, North of Aqueduct, West of 165 St E and East of 121 St East
- south of Fort Tejon Road, North of Cooley Place, East of 89th St East and west of Longview Road
- north of Pallett Creek, South of W. 114th St., East of Longview Road and West of 165th Street
- 96th east to 116th St. E/Fort Tejon Road south to SR 2
- 116th East to Devils Punchbowl Road/Fort Tejon Road to SR 2
- devils Punchbowl Road to and including Fenner Camp
- Fenner Camp to intersection of SR 2 and Big Pines
- Chilao, the CalTrans Yard, the 3 Points area and the Angeles Crest Christian Camp and the Crystal Lake area.
Structures have been damaged and losses were expected, according to Vince Pena, unified incident commander with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The number of homes affected was not available.
Earlier broadcast reports from the scene showed structures that appeared to be homes burning in the Juniper Hills area, but the U.S. Forest Service could not confirm that.
The Los Angeles Fire Department is now sending two strike teams under the mutual aid agreement to help fight the Bobcat Fire, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
The agency said Saturday morning that crews would be focusing "on securing the fire's perimeter in the north in an effort to stop any additional spread, especially to the communities in the northeast and northwest. Expect fire growth towards Wrightwood on north and west around Chilao."
At around 2:30 p.m., the fire was making a hard push west toward Cheseboro Road near the Little Rock Reservoir, and air support was requested to slow it down.
On the fire's southern end, evacuation warnings were lifted as of 4 p.m. for the communities of Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia, Bradbury and Duarte in the San Gabriel Valley, while the warnings for Altadena and Pasadena remained in effect.
A Red Cross evacuation center has been set up at Palmdale High School in the Antelope Valley, while the earlier evacuation point at Santa Anita Park for those in the San Gabriel Valley was now closed. Anyone still needing assistance was urged to call the Disaster Distress Hotline at 800-675-5799.
Officials urged residents to be alert for any additional evacuation orders or warnings that might take place Saturday due to forecasted gusty winds up to 30 mph. Lower temperatures were expected to aid the firefighting effort, however.
Evacuation warnings were also issued Thursday evening for the unincorporated area of Wrightwood, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department reported. In addition, new evacuation warnings were issued Thursday for the area north of Mt. Emma Road south of Pearblossom Highway, west of Cheseboro Road, east and north of Angeles Forest Highway, east and south of 122 Highway and north and west of Mt. Emma Road.
"No additional strategic aerial firing will be occurring today near the San Gabriel Reservoir,'' the ANF tweeted Saturday. "Large pockets of unburned islands of fuel remain within the perimeter that will be actively burning and producing smoke throughout the day."
A total of 1,663 personnel are currently assigned to the fire.
The fire exploded in size Friday, growing by more than 17,000 acres and making a "hard push to the west and north'' as wind gusts reached 44 mph," the Forest Service said.
"Mt. Wilson is still safe and we will continue to focus on the north end of the fire," officials said after daybreak Friday. Fire retardant was placed around Mount Wilson.
Crews have been working for days to protect the Mount Wilson Observatory and nearby broadcast towers valued at more than $1 billion from approaching flames.
Observatory personnel were evacuated. Mount Wilson is not only one of the crown jewels of astronomy but also home to infrastructure that transmits cellphone signals and television and radio broadcasts for the greater Los Angeles Area.
A closure order has been issued for all National Forests in Southern California.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District extended its smoke advisory through Sunday, with officials warning that ``smoke may impact different parts of the region at different times."
Residents were advised to limit their outdoor exposure as much as possible, and keep doors and windows closed.
The Los Angeles Zoo, which closed last Sunday due to poor air quality, planned to reopen Saturday.
"Based on past fire events in the area, we do not anticipate air quality issues to affect our animals,'' according to a Twitter post from the zoo. "However, our animal care and veterinary health staff are closely monitoring the animals in outdoor habitats and are preparing to respond as necessary."
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. The cause remains under investigation.