September 7, 2020: As the Creek Fire approached Bald Mountain, much of the upper mountain was spared as the fire went around and past us. As it was put to us, there is devastation all around us and SRO and that much of the top of Bald Mountain, where SRO is situated, is relatively "safe". Since the fire is out to our immediate north and east, with our region of the Creek Fire moving Southwest, the possibility of fire returning to our area is lessened. In addition, the risk of a fire in the future near SRO is diminished, as there is much less fuel to burn in the area for miles around us. This is important as we move forward. There has been no damage to anyone's equipment and we will be up and running once the area is opened by Cal Fire, possibly sooner. If we need to get on site to open up, we may be delayed a few weeks by Cal Fire, and that is out of our control. Our fiber optic internet is temporarily down, but we have our emergency back-up satellite internet service. We are posting links (below) so you can view SRO.
Of course, the fire is still active and things might change. There is still fire to our south and west, but this is being fought and as it travels further away there is less fuel available for it to return. Also, embers continue to fall and spark fires, which the firefighters are continuously battling. Importantly, SRO has a large cleared area which is a formidable defense against fire damaging the site. That protection is still there, but fortunately it appears that much of the fire around us is out.
Although we are understandably relieved that SRO was spared a direct onslaught from the fire, we recognize that this has been a horrible tragedy for many of the good people who live here. And sadly, some beautiful homes and businesses have been destroyed. The firefighters and others did an amazing and heroic job protecting lives and saving the property they could, but unfortunately have much work to do on this still active and dangerous fire. We dread seeing the devastation of this beautiful countryside.
We will do all we can to get SRO open and operational as soon as we can, once the ash and local fires are no longer present.
Keith Quattrocchi and Mel Helm
Sierra Remote Observatories
September 7, 2020
September 9, 2020: Expected ember fires which Cal Fire continues to extinguish. Heavy bulldozing around SRO as an additional barrier against any smaller local ember fires. Firemen busy throughout the area checking on and protecting homes.
September 10, 2020: We are told fires to our south, just above 168 are less extensive and those to the west also less aggressive. Water dropped over SRO yesterday evening. Ember fire just west of us is fizzling out. Of course, there is still too much smoke and ash, which we assume will be an issue for 2 weeks, possibly longer.
September 16, 2020: Much progress was made over the past 2 days. Currently, most of the fires in our immediate region are out. Although the Creek Fire is only 18% contained, most of the burning areas are north, northeast and east of SRO.
Yesterday and today, several Ponderosa Cable substations were repaired and we now have 200 mbps (duplex) on site. Most, if not all of our clients, should be able to remotely access their telescope servers. The telemetry (cameras, weather, etc.) are now nearly completely working and updating . If you cannot remotely access your telescope, please let us know so we can address the problem. Again, for those of you in smaller buildings, do not open the roof until the ash fall is no longer present.
On visual inspection, there is no discernible ash inside the buildings. PlaneWave has pointed out that even minimal amounts of ash can cause damage to the mirrors and coatings once wet. They have experience removing ash safely and have generously volunteered their expertise and services and will clean the mirrors without charge. They will address the PlaneWave telescopes and as many others as they have time for and SRO will then continue the same process for all remaining telescopes. The basic technique is distilled water followed by Distilled water + Dawn and completed with large amounts of distilled water. This can be followed by loose untreated Kleenex to remove droplets and streaks. I have safely used a similar technique using Windex instead of Dawn for decades. There will be more information coming out soon. We will obtain permission from each client before touching their telescope optics. We will, of course, also be cleaning the OTAs/Mounts. We anticipate this will occur in about 2 weeks, based on current progress of containment.
These emails are provided inn order to keep you up-to-date with our progress at SRO. A great deal of time and effort has gone into getting SRO up and running so quickly. We are indebted most of all to Cal Fire and the thousands of other fire fighting professionals who protected properties at great risk and danger to themselves. We are also indebted to Ponderosa Cable, Datapath, PG&E, ViaSat Internet and our hard working staff, especially Sam Miller and Evan Cornelsen, out on-site technicians. If you have any questions or concerns feel to email or call us any time.
September 18, 2020: We are hearing that the evacuation orders in our area "may" soon be lifted, possibly this weekend, however there has been no official word from Cal Fire or other agency. The observatory is fully operational and the sky is clearing, though still not ready for observations. The fire is 20% contained with no active fires in our immediate area. It is clearly too soon to begin imaging, but once the particulate matter has cleared, we will let our clients know and begin opening the roof again. PlaneWave Instruments has kindly volunteered to travel to SRO in order to remove ash from the mirrors of PlaneWave Telescopes. Information about cleaning telescope optics will be emailed to our clients. As the immediate danger has passed, we will soon be discontinuing this Creek Fire page and will continue to send updates directly to our clients. The possibility of another fire is remote. We have already enacted many measures to deter fire from damaging SRO, some of which helped to stop embers and ground fires from affecting our site. We are adding even more extreme measures in the unlikely event of another fire in the future. Most of all we are grateful to the efforts of numerous firefighters who kept an eye on and worked hard to protect thousands of homes and businesses, including our own.
Keith Quattrocchi & Mel Helm
Sierra Remote Observatories
Local Cameras. Refresh the page if you do not see updates.