Mt. Wilson Observatory Saved, Thanks to Firefighters: An Appreciation
The 105-year-old Mount Wilson Observatory, which today was called "the birthplace of the expanding Universe" by Discover Magazine online, seemed on the verge of destruction just three days ago, evacuated of all personnel on Monday and surrounded by 25 firefighters who then had to flee as flames edged toward the august facility.
On Tuesday afternoon, a massive drop of fire retardant by a Super Scooper and tanker helicopters laid a protective moat around the threatened buildings as well as the major TV communications towers that serve Southern California. At the same time, gigantic earth-movers wiped out surrounded bushes and small trees -- the "fuel" that fed the Station Fire, the biggest ever in Los Angeles County.As CNET reported, Californians got a scare on Tuesday when images from the Observatory Webcam abruptly stopped transmitting "possibly due to phone line damage from backfires" purposely set to hold back the Station Fire. Then word came Wednesday from Observatory Director Hal McAlister that the firefighters' efforts had created "very good prospects" that the observatory would be saved.
And now, it appears to have been saved. Californians breathed a sigh of relief to hear word that the beautiful, and still very vital to science, facility is intact and, we hope, may soon be seen through thinning smoke. Here's an appreciation published in LA Weekly in 2002 that still holds true today.