Fire reaches Kitt Peak Observatory, destroying several structures
On Saturday June 18, the fire subsided enough that Michelle Edwards, associate director of KPNO, and Joe Davis, security manager, accessed the property and found that the telescopes and domes were still standing. Unfortunately, some of the facilities were still inaccessible at the time, including the 4-meter Nicholas U. Mayall Telescope. Many remained in active burn areas through Sunday, June 19, and the fires at the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope and Windows of the Center of the Universe continue to require management.
KPNO, a sprawling mountaintop campus with more than two dozen active telescopes, will be out of service and without power for several weeks, the statement said. Although the roads leading to the property are not completely destroyed, safely reaching all KPNO facilities to thoroughly assess the extent of the damage could be a lengthy process.
The Contreras Fire continues to burn across the region, now affecting more than 18,000 acres, according to the latest incident report. Windy, dry conditions and temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) are fueling the flames.
As of Monday (June 20), the National Weather Service forecast calls for a chance of rain at Kitt Peak beginning Tuesday (June 21) and continuing through the week. According to the East Area Incident Management Team in the statement, “…although we are not out of danger, the situation is improving.”