Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fire on Mt. Wilson

Mt. Wilson at the beginning of the Station Fire
courtesy of KCET.org

It's September 1st today. Usually the fire season here in Southern California doesn't get started until mid-September or October. This year, multiple fires in the Los Angeles County area broke out at the end of August. I don't live near to the fires, but I am not immune to their effects. The air quality in Los Angeles has been impacted by smoke, ash and hazardous fine particles for several days now. Tonight, when my husband walked the dogs and I "walked" along with them on my scooter, the moon was a light orange above our heads.

One aspect of the massive Station Fire that has captured my full attention is the threat to Mt. Wilson. On top of this mountain, visible from the roof of my house, sits an observatory with multiple telescopes pointed towards space and a multitude of communications towers for local television, FM radio, cellular phone providers and the Los Angeles emergency response network. The loss of the observatory would be tragic. The loss of the communications towers would potentially cripple communications in Los Angeles for up to a year. At our home, we would no longer be able to watch television courtesy of our rooftop HD antennae, which we just installed a few months ago.

I stayed up into the early morning hours today, viewing the webcam on Mt. Wilson set up by the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy, to see if the fire would breach the mountain top. It didn't happen last night, but the threat is still there. Firefighters made their way back up to the mountain top today, despite the fire being on both sides of the winding road that leads up to the summit. According to the local news, firefighters lit backfires, cleared brush, covered the mountain top with a variety of flame retardants and even flew huge water dropping "Super Scoopers" over the peak during daylight hours.

The T1 line that connected the webcam to the rest of the world was damaged during the intense activity today at the summit, so tonight I can not keep another vigil watching the mountain. I will only know what has happened when I attempt to turn on the TV or radio tomorrow to see if I still have a signal.

Below is a slide show of the screen shots I saved to my computer from my vigil last night. Believe it or not, the slide show features the same area featured in the photo at the top of this post.

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