The nature center at the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area was destroyed by the Bobcat fire, which grew to 99,428 acres by Sunday morning and remained at 15% containment as fire officials warned it will continue from the Antelope Valley foothills into the communities of Juniper Hills, Valyermo and Big Pine.
Approaching 100,000 acres, the fire grew 5,586 acres overnight.
The Bobcat Fire started Sept. 6 near the Cogswell Dam and West Fork Day Use area northeast of Mount Wilson, inside the Angeles National Forest. Cause remains under investigation.
Structures have been damaged in the Antelope Valley and losses were expected, according to Vince Pena, unified incident commander with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The number of homes affected was not available Sunday morning.
Containment is when firefighters create and hold a fire break around the perimeter of a wildfire.
The Devil’s Punchbowl Nature Center, which opened in 1963, was operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, which announced confirmation of the loss on Sunday. It did not say when the center had been destroyed.
“It was truly a gem of education for our youth, local community, and residents of the county,” Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation Director Norma Edith García-Gonzalez said in a statement.
The animals in the sanctuary had already been safely evacuated, including Ruth the barn owl and Twig, a screech owl, along with snakes and tortoises, the department said. A separate staff office building on the property apparently survived, along with surrounding pinyon pines, junipers and manzanita trees.
The site and its structures will be assessed when it is safe to do so, the department said.
The fire remained active overnight due to stubborn low humidity and spotting continues to present challenges, according to the U.S. Forest Service, but progress was reported on the south end of the fire in the San Gabriel Valley area.
“Progress was made on holding containment lines on the south end of the fire. Heavy fire activity took place to the north end of the fire”
The Forest Service said crews were were working on “indirect lines”– a method in which fire lines are cut well away from the fire, and the intervening area is either control-burned or lined with retardant from the air.
Evacuation orders were in place for all residents south of 138th Street East, north of Big Pine Highway and Highway 2, west of 263rd East and east of Largo Vista Road.
On Saturday night, the unified fire command issued new evacuation orders for people living northwest of Mt. Emma, southeast of Highway 122 and west of Cheeseboro Road.
Click here for updated evacuation information.
A Red Cross evacuation center has been set up at Palmdale High School in the Antelope Valley, while the earlier evacuation point at Santa Anita Park for those in the San Gabriel Valley was closed. Anyone still needing assistance was urged to call the Disaster Distress Hotline at 800-675-5799.
City News Service contributed to this story