Mt Wilson fire 09162020

photo courtesy of HPWren via UC San Diego

The out-of-control Bobcat Fire came within 500 feet of the Mount Wilson Observatory and many of the broadcast towers used by Los Angeles radio and TV stations Tuesday night. As of midday Wednesday, the towers and the 116-year-old observatory had been spared from the fire. “We had a good night last night and fire behavior moderated at the south end of the fire,” the U.S. Forest Service tweeted Wednesday, shortly before 7am Pacific time.

The blaze in the Angeles National Forest has grown to 44,393 acres and remains only 3% contained.

Fire crews were able to keep the flames from reaching the antenna farm that’s home to $1 billion worth of radio and TV towers that serve the sprawling metropolis. “Crews set off back fires near the observatory, and created barriers using hand crews and dozer lines to prevent flames from reaching the area,” according to a report from KABC-TV.

“We’re fortunate because that’s the biggest threat to the city has been contained,” Jeremy Phipps of Monrovia Fire Department, said Wednesday, according to CBS Los Angeles.

Had the fire reached the towers, numerous radio and TV stations would have been forced to broadcast from auxiliary sites. Mount Wilson FM Broadcasters country KKGO (105.1) has operated from a Mount Wilson transmitter since 1959. Concerned about the fire hazard, the company installed a complete duplicate transmitter on Flint Peak above LaCanada on the former KPWR tower, according to President Saul Levine. “Although an expensive means to stay on the air if Mount Wilson is disrupted, it is a valuable back-up to allow KKGO to stay on the air through most emergencies,” Levine told Inside Radio.