LA County Wildfire Explodes in Size, Passing 100K Acres in Second Week

The wind whips embers from the Joshua trees burned by the Bobcat Fire in Juniper Hills, Calif., Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The Bobcat Fire — one of the largest fires in Los Angeles County history at over 105,000 acres — tore into the high desert over the weekend, destroying multiple homes.

The Bobcat Fire is one of 27 major wildfires in the Golden State as of Monday. Over 19,000 firefighters are battling blazes burning from one end of California to the other, according to emergency officials.

In just two weeks, the Bobcat Fire grew to be one of the largest fires in LA County history. And over the weekend, the wildfire spread in multiple directions.

Residents of Antelope Valley in northern LA County fled their homes Sunday as the fire was pushed by strong winds, according the U.S. National Forest Service. An unconfirmed number of homes were destroyed.

The foothill communities of Big Pine, Juniper Hills and Valyermo were ordered to evacuate on Sunday along with the communities of Devils Punch Bowl, Paradise Springs, Crystal Lake and Camp Williams.

The Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation reported over the weekend a nature center was destroyed at the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area near the Juniper Hills community.

The Bobcat Fire passed through Juniper Hills and destroyed several homes in the neighborhood, which sits at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains facing the Antelope Valley.

One resident, who identified himself as William, said his family fled Thursday when sheriff’s deputies came to his gate and told him to leave.

“We only saw smoke on Thursday and I wanted to stay. Come Friday evening there’s the glow,” William said referring to the fire as it was fed by wind gusts.

A chimney stack and a melted satellite dish were all that was left at a home on Juniper Hills Road.

On Monday, Ashley Cox, 32, stopped by her family’s home after fleeing to a motel in the city of Palmdale about 20 minutes away.

Her home remained standing while just down the road other homes were reduced to ashes and bent metal.

“Oh man, yeah, it was a relief to see the house still here,” says Cox. “Fire is really sporadic like that.”

She added: “This year feels so much worse, because we were evacuated in the Station Fire and then we were back the next day.”

The Bobcat Fire is set to catch up to the largest fire in LA County history, the Station Fire of 2009, which burned over 160,000 acres.

Some 105,345 acres have been scorched since the Bobcat Fire broke out Sept. 6. In addition to numerous communities, the fire also threatened the Mt. Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena. On Sunday, the portion of the fire west of Mt. Wilson pushed toward Highway 2, while another flank continued to push north according to fire personnel.

Firefighters are establishing a defensive perimeter to stop the fire from pushing east and west, the U.S. Forest Service said. Meanwhile, sections of Pasadena are under evacuation warnings along with the communities of Altadena and Wrightwood and other areas in the Mojave Desert.

Since the start of the year, 7,900 wildfires have been reported according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. Since mid-August, 26 people have died in blazes across the state and over 6,400 buildings have been destroyed.

In a briefing Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom said after weeks of fighting lightning-induced wildfires in Northern California, the firefighting focus is switching to the Bobcat and El Dorado fires outside of LA.

“We’re putting as many resources as we possibly can,” Newsom said, adding California continues to benefit from the help of out-of-state firefighting crews. “Obviously these are stubborn fires and impactful.”

California is currently suffering through a historic wildfire season in terms of the amount of land burned.

A record 3.6 million acres have burned in 2020, compared to just 157,000 acres charred at this point last year. According to Cal Fire statistics, 5 of the top 10 largest fires in state history have occurred since August.

Fire conditions have improved in recent weeks but Cal Fire remains on edge as in the past some of the state’s most deadly and destructive fires have occurred in the fall. With statewide temperatures predicted to spike this weekend along with strong winds, much of the state could once again see critical fire weather.

“With just how destructive and deadly it has already been, do not let your guard down,” said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant Monday. “This is the peak of fire season.”

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