Four unscientific buildings at Keith Peak National Observatory southwest of Tucson were lost in a wildfire, but early indications suggest other buildings on the property do not appear to be damaged, authorities said Saturday.
Buell T. Jannuzi, who heads the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, said the fire did not appear to have damaged the telescope and scientific buildings at the observatory, although no more careful study of the site has yet been made due to safety concerns.
“This is the most threatening fire I remember in Keith Peak in the last 25 years,” Janusi said.
The fire reached the observatory early Friday. The crews planned to assess the damage to the observatory later on Saturday if conditions allow safe entry into the area.
The Kitt Peak National Observatory is operated by NOIRLab, the center of the National Science Foundation for Terrestrial Optical-Infrared Astronomy. The University of Arizona, which has had a telescope on site since 1962, is a tenant of the observatory.
The fire was caused by lightning, which led to the evacuation of observatory earlier this week it rose to 27 square miles (71 kilometers) to Saturday. There was zero containment of the fire that started on June 11 on a remote ridge of the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation.
In northern New Mexico, authorities concerned about the threat of flooding following wildfires when the state invaded monsoon season have warned residents of San Miguel and Mora counties to be ready for evacuation due to flood risks, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The largest area facing flood threats is where the fire, which began two months ago, has burned 533 square miles (1,381 square kilometers) so far. The fire was controlled by 72%.
And in southwestern Alaska, officials say the immediate threat has spread to communities near St. Mary is from a spill which by Saturday had reached 248 square miles (643 square kilometers) in size.
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