The Bobcat wildfire, one of several that continue to char the Southern California landscape, has expanded in virtually all directions, growing to 55,617 Acres acres as of Thursday, September 17.
The fire which began on September 6 remains largely unfettered as containment is only at 9%. That puts the fire, which came threateningly close to the 116-year old Mt.Wilson Observatory on Monday evening, at the top of many a firefighting agency’s list, including South Pasadena Fire Department who had previously deployed personnel to the nearby El Dorado Fire.
Another alarming factor is the close proximity in which the fire is in relation to many residential neighborhoods located in the San Gabriel foothills, particularly that of Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia, and Duarte.
According to an incident report from the Angeles Forest Service, mandatory evacuation orders were issued for all residents “north of Elkins Ave. and east of Santa Anita Ave. in the City of Arcadia and portions of Sierra Madre” on Wednesday, as others living in different regions of those cities, who were given orders last week, were allowed to return home.
Many onlookers in a northeastern neighborhood of Sierra Madre struggled to pass the numerous police blockades which prevented access to unobstructed vantage points at higher elevations. What could be seen however were the bald and barren mountainsides, remnants of once verdant hills now scorched by a destructive path.
Fleets of firetrucks, maintenance vehicles, and forest service patrol cars ceaselessly flowed up and down the hills, presumably rotating shifts and relocating to other devastated areas for what is a continuous battle against the elements, one which offers no respite for the almost 1,300 personnel assigned to the incident.
Abe Kummerow, a resident of Sierra Madre, has said that he’s been under evacuation warning for over a week but has not been given any mandatory orders to leave his home just yet. “I packed some stuff, but for the moment the fire seems to be heading away from us and more towards the north,” says Kummerow, “The wind could shift at anytime though. They said it could go on for three months.”
According to a National Forest report, the estimated containment date is October 30
For those whose homes were in one particular corner of Monrovia, the flames began knocking on their doorstep, seemingly overnight.
Sitting on the guardrail overlooking the Sawpit Canyon — the only barrier between the encroaching fire and his home — was Michael Kunch.
Persisting to exist in a sense of limbo of voluntary evacuation, Kunch says that he and his family are prepared to leave at any moment. “A couple days ago you couldn’t see a fire truck in the area. Then yesterday, they started showing up in droves,” he says “The next thing we knew we had like 15 fire trucks in the neighborhood like well, they must know something that we don’t because we don’t see anything. And then this morning, we saw the the smoke coming up over the hillside in the back and I said to my kids, that mountains on fire!”
Staring in awe of the 30-40 ft tall flames which engulfed the adjacent foothills, he lamented the loss of such beauty while also quipping, “You never get used to it, living in California.”
For those who have been given evacuation orders, a Red Cross Evacuation Center has been established at Santa Anita Park, located at 285 W. Huntington Drive in Arcadia.
Stay tuned for more updates on this story