Mt. Wilson, home to the transmission towers for 20-plus radio and television stations, has thus far avoided going up in flames. But fire officials in southern California are unsure how long their luck will hold out.
Reports yesterday said the mountain would be engulfed by the raging Station Fire as of 7 p.m. last night. While the fire has doubled in size since then, now spanning some 85,000 acres, frantic brush-clearing and fire-retardant dispersal by fire crews has kept the heavy blazes off the mountain.
"There is a good chance the fire will hit Mt. Wilson today," U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Ray Dombroski told the L.A. Times. "The fire is currently on two sides of Mt. Wilson, about one-half mile to the north and about one mile southwest."
Winds are currently blowing west, which may bode well for salvaging the Mt. Wilson facilities, which include the Mt. Wilson Observatory, cell phone transmission towers and police and fire communications equipment.
Stations are taking precautions for reaching over the air viewers should the towers become damaged. A KCBS/KCAL spokesperson says the CBS duopoly is working with local cable and satellite providers to make sure viewers continue to receive the stations' signal via fiber from the stations' broadcast center in Studio City. The stations are also streaming all newscasts on their websites as a way to keep viewers connected to the day's vital news.
Other stations have also instructed viewers to look to their Websites for streaming news should the transmitters be rendered non-functional. KTLA.com, for one, offers a bright red banner on the home page that says, "If flames disrupt KTLA's TV signal, you can see KTLA programming here on KTLA.com."
Stations are asking viewers to pass along digital photos and video of the fire to assist in their newsgathering.
Mt. Wilson is part of the San Gabriel Mountains and is located in Angeles National Forest.
The blaze started Wednesday, a result of temperatures in the 100s for several days, and low humidity. It's estimated that the Station Fire is 5% contained.
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