Fire Crews Protect Observatory on Southern California Peak

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Helicopters made water drops as crews worked in steep terrain Tuesday to battle an out-of-control fire burning near an historic observatory and communications towers on Mount Wilson northeast of Los Angeles.

A huge plume of smoke was visible across the Los Angeles basin and surrounding valleys after the blaze broke out shortly before 4 a.m. near the 5,710 foot (1,740 meter) peak

About 25 acres of dry brush were charred as flames churned down the rugged mountainside, said Robert Diaz of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. There was no containment.

The observatory about 25 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles was evacuated and the fire was not burning near foothill residences.

Firefighters hoped to make progress surrounding the fire while winds remained calm amid cooler morning temperatures. Weather this week remained warm and very dry, but the most recent Santa Ana winds died away.

A 2009 wildfire that raged for more than a month in mountains above Los Angeles' foothill suburbs gravely threatened Mount Wilson, which houses critical broadcast and communications antennas for the region.

The observatory houses the 100-inch Hooker Telescope, one the most famous telescopes of the first half of the 20th century, which opened Nov. 1, 1917.