It was 1 p.m., and flurries of ashes were falling like snow for the fourth consecutive day. David Cendejas looked toward massive clouds of smoke rising off the eastern flank of the Bobcat fire as it marched westward toward the Mt. Wilson Observatory and nearby thickets of broadcast spires stabbing hundreds of feet skyward.

“The fire has moved to within 1.6 miles away from the observatory,” said Cendenjas, 28, superintendent of the complex that houses 18 astronomical wonders including the 100-inch Hooker telescope, which proved the existence of other galaxies flung across the universe. “A bit of good news is that the smoke was so thick Sunday night that it choked the speed of fire’s advance.”

Cendejas and other staffers had spent the morning introducing more than three dozen firefighters to the emergency firefighting systems and backup electric generators strategically located across the property perched on a 5,710-foot mountain shaded by pines and oak forests.

They included a 530,00-gallon water tank connected to a high-pressure pump built in 1970, last used when the observatory was rescued from snarling flames of the Station fire after a fight that lasted five days and four nights.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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