HomeAstronomy & Space4 buildings at the observatory in Arizona lost in a wildfire

4 buildings at the observatory in Arizona lost in a wildfire

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A wildfire destroyed four non-scientific buildings at the Kitt Peak National Observatory southwest of Tucson, but early indications show that other buildings on the property were not damaged, authorities said Saturday. Buell T. Jannuzi, chair of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, said the fire did not appear to have damaged the observatory’s telescope or science buildings, though a closer examination of the site had not yet been conducted due to safety concerns.

“This is the most dangerous fire I’ve seen at Kitt Peak in the last 25 years,” Jannuzi said. Early Friday, the fire reached the observatory. Crews planned to assess the damage at the observatory later Saturday if conditions permitted safe entry.

NOIRLab, the National Science Foundation’s ground-based optical-infrared astronomy centre, operates Kitt Peak National Observatory. The observatory’s tenant is the University of Arizona, which has had a telescope on the site since 1962.

The lightning-caused fire, which forced the observatory’s evacuation earlier this week, had grown to 27 square miles (71 kilometres) by Saturday. The fire, which began on a remote ridge on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation on June 11, had no containment.

Authorities in northern New Mexico, concerned about the threat of post-wildfire floods as the state enters monsoon season, have warned residents of San Miguel and Mora counties to be prepared to evacuate due to flooding risks, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The most vulnerable area to flooding is where a fire that started two months ago has burned 533 square miles (1,381 square kilometers). The fire is only 72% contained.

In southwest Alaska, officials say the immediate threat from a fire that had reached 248 square miles (643 square kilometers) in size by Saturday has passed to communities near St. Mary’s.

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