Bobcat Fire in California becomes one of largest in Los Angeles County history, whips up 'smokenado'

As West Coast wildfires rage, new concerns arise that could fuel fires

Jeff Paul reports the latest on the California wildfires and if there is hope on the horizon

A wind-driven wildfire burning in the mountains northeast of Los Angeles has now scorched over 100,000 acres as of Monday, as strong winds even whipped up a "smokenado."

The Bobcat Fire has been burning since Labor Day weekend and doubled in size last week, becoming one of Los Angeles County's largest wildfires in history.

"We're still in the thick of a good firefight," U.S. Forest Service public information officer Andrew Mitchell told the Los Angeles Times.


According to the U.S. Forest Service, additional evacuations were ordered in the Antelope Valley over the weekend as the blaze spread. No injuries have been reported.

The Bobcat Fire grew to over 103,000 acres on Sunday, according to fire officials.
(U.S. Forest Service/InciWeb)

Southerly winds gusting up to 30 mph were impacting ridges, while in the canyon winds were gusting around 20 mph into lower elevations helping to spread the flames.

"With these weather conditions, the fire was very active," the agency said.

Officials said Sunday night that fire activity north of Mount Wilson continued to push northward, toward Highway 2.

Firefighters have been able to defend Mount Wilson, which overlooks greater Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains and has a historic observatory founded more than a century ago and numerous broadcast antennas serving Southern California.

The blaze is 15% contained as teams attempt to determine the scope of the destruction in the area about 50 miles northeast of downtown LA. Thousands of residents in the foothill communities of the Antelope Valley were ordered to evacuate the area Saturday as winds pushed the flames into Juniper Hills.

The Bobcat Fire burns in the distance beyond a Joshua tree Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Juniper Hills, Calif.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Roland Pagan watched his Juniper Hills house burn through binoculars as he stood on a nearby hill, according to the Los Angeles Times

Jesse Vasquez, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, hoses down hot spots from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Valyermo, Calif.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“The ferocity of this fire was shocking,” Pagan, 80, told the newspaper. “It burned my house alive in just 20 minutes.”


The Bobcat Fire is expected to keep growing on Monday as critical fire weather conditions continued due to gusty wind and low humidity.

A San Bernardino County Fire Department member keeps an eye on a flareup from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Valyermo, Calif.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Those gusty winds whipped up a "smokenado" near Big Pines as strong, erratic winds spread the blaze, according to ABC7.

The smokenado was similar to that of a dust devil. Dust devils are a small, "rapidly rotating wind" made visible by the dust, dirt or debris it picks up, according to the NWS. They are typically harmless and weaker than tornadoes.

Jesse Vasquez, of the San Bernardino County Fire Department, hoses down hot spots from the Bobcat Fire on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Valyermo, Calif.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

In addition to the 103,000 acres burned by the blaze, the Bobcat Fire destroyed the nature center at Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area, a geological wonder that attracts some 130,000 visitors per year.

Across California, nearly 19,000 firefighters continue to fight more than two dozen major wildfires.

More than 16K firefighters battling California wildfires

More than 7,900 wildfires have burned more than 5,468 square miles in California this year, including many since a mid-August barrage of dry lightning ignited parched vegetation.

A firefighter died last week on the lines of another blaze in Southern California that was sparked by a gender-reveal party.


A statement from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said it was the 26th death involving wildfires besieging the state.


Other blazes continue to scorch the west as above-normal temperatures return and gusty winds bring fire concerns for parts of the Great Basin.

A look at active wildfires burning across the West on Sept. 21, 2020.
(Fox News)

In Wyoming, a rapidly growing wildfire in the southeastern part of the state was closing in on a reservoir that’s a major source of water for the capital city, Cheyenne.

Fox News' Janice Dean and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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