There’s one aspect to the Southern California wildfires that may not be immediately obvious. The national coverage has mentioned the risk to the historic Mount Wilson Observatory, but less coverage has been given to the fact that Mount Wilson also is home to the television broadcast antenna farm for the greater Los Angeles area. More than 20 stations transmit their signals from towers located near the observatory on top of the mountain.
The wildfires have been threatening to overrun the mountain, and fire fighters have used retardants, backfires, and even massive water drops from a large amphibious plane to protect the site. Even if they succeed in preventing the flames from reaching the summit, there is still the risk of losing power connections to the transmitters.
The good news is that late last night, officials were quoted as saying that the towers and observatory were no longer in any “direct or immediate danger“. This is good news for the L.A. residents who rely on over the air broadcasts of television content. The incident demonstrates, however, just how vulnerable our technology infrastructure can be.