Fire threatens Mount Wilson Observatory

Despite smoke perilously close to the observatory buildings and the failure of the UCLA Towercam, MWO director Harold McAlister reported Wednesday, "The situation on the mountain remains stable with very good prospects."

The Towercam, which for much of the fire functioned as the only way to see the fire in the Mount Wilson vicinity, went down Tuesday night along with the rest of the observatory's Internet connections. McAlister wrote in a recent update the outage was due to the melting of some fiberglass panels covering the communications lines.

And the scary nearby fires turn out to have been backfires deliberately set to burn the inflammable brush and debris in a controlled way, keeping the trees from going up in flames. In addition, 7,500 gallons of retardant gel dropped from planes and the 750,000 gallons of water in the observatory's potable tanks have both slowed the spreading of Station Fire.

While the risk is not completely gone, the worst now seems over. Firefighters will remain on Mount Wilson until it's deemed safe.

McAlister wrote that LA County Deputy Fire Chief Jim Powers was "absolutely confident" the observatory would survive.