Forest Fires in Vicinity of Allen Telescope Array

By Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer and Director of SETI Research

restaurantCharred remains of the Bar K restaurant in Hat Creek, about one mile from the Array. [credit: Jon Richards]

Update: August 8, 2:00 pm
Jon Richards reports that the Array is “up and running.”

The Bar K restaurant, about a five minute drive from the observatory and a favorite luncheon spot for those at the Array, was destroyed after the fire crossed highway 89.  This is a sad loss both for the owners, Jack and Donna Garner, who’ve run this establishment for four decades, but for all those who enjoyed their home cooked sandwiches and savory milkshakes.

Update: August 7, 4:00 pm.
The Eiler fire is now reported as being 40 percent (perimeter) contained.  It is no longer threatening the Array.
 
The SETI Institute’s Jon Richards reports that the receivers are being cooled to operating temperature, and the various digital processing equipment (correlators and computers) are now being tested.  These might be operational within a few hours.
 

Unlike yesterday, when the smoke was as thick as fog, the air’s much clearer today.  “You still wouldn’t want to jog here,” says Richards, “but it’s better.  I think we got lucky with this.”

Update: August 6, 9:00 am.
The Eiler fire is now 35 percent contained. Full containment may take weeks, but the blaze is no longer directly threatening the Array. On-site personnel are busy bringing up the instrument, and significant progress will likely be made tomorrow when more personnel are there.

Update: August 5, 16:00 Pacific Time
Mike Cutter, of SRI, says that the Array now has power and telephones, but no network. The computers are being brought back up, but so far the staff has not been able to communicate with the antennas. Attempts to get everything back up and running will be underway tomorrow and Thursday.

Update: August 5, 14:30 Pacific Time.
The threatened evacuation of Hat Creek has been cancelled, and highway 89 has been opened for use by residents. ATA staff will also have access to the observatory.

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Fire near ATA

 The fire on August 2, with the Allen Telescope Array in the foreground.

In the last several days, forest fires have developed near the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek, California.
 
There are two fires, approximately a mile or more in extant, to the east and west of the array.  The closer is the Eiler fire, to the west, which as of the morning of Tuesday, August 5, had breeched highway 89 in places.   This fire is less than one mile from the antennas.
 
However, the latest reports suggest that the fire is spreading in a northwest direction, towards the town of Burney, and not to the east, which would threaten the Array.
 
For those who are interested in following this still-uncontained blaze, there are maps here:
 
http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4037/
 
Switch to satellite mode and zoom in, and you can easily see our antennas and their situation  in relation to the fire.
 
Check back to this site for further developments.

-- Seth Shostak