Part of the Contreras Fire burning on the slopes of the Kitt Peak mountain on early morning June 17. In the foreground NRAO’s Very Long Baseline Array Dish is seen.Image: KPNO / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA
“The Contreras Fire reached the Observatory early Friday morning. We are working with firefighters at the site to assess possible damage, ”the observatory tweeted today. “NSF’s NOIRLab is deeply grateful to the firefighters working at the site and for the support of the Tohono O’odham community at this challenging time. Safety remains our top priority. ”
According to the observatory’s press release, areas of dry brush and trees were cleared at the southern ridge of the mountain in order to prevent the fire from spreading up towards the facility. Likewise, planes dropped fire-retardant on the area in the hope of protecting the observatory, which was founded in 1958, and power was shutoff this morning. Fire crested the southwest ridge of the mountain at 2 am MST, threatening four telescopes: the Hiltner 2.4-meter Telescope, the McGraw-Hill 1.3-meter Telescope, the Very Long Baseline Array Dish, and the UArizona 12-meter Telescope. The latter is operated by the University of Arizona and is part of the Event Horizon Telescope, which produced the first image of a black hole.