Burned body found in Mt. Wilson area where firefighters still battle blaze

A burned body was found in the Mt. Wilson area, but authorities could not yet confirm whether a fire still burning in the area was responsible for the death, officials said Thursday.

The body of a male was found Wednesday south of the parking lot at Mt. Wilson, and authorities have not confirmed his identity or the cause of death, said coroner's Lt. Kelly Yagerlener.

Sheriff’s detectives were called around 5 p.m. Wednesday and determined that the death was not due to a homicide, said Deputy Guillermina Saldana.

Firefighters still are trying to gain full control of a 50-acre blaze in the San Gabriel Mountains near Mt. Wilson before Santa Ana winds are expected to kick up Saturday, authorities said.

Faced with around 400 firefighters and six helicopters, the fire was 45% contained Thursday morning, said Angeles National Forest spokeswoman Seneca Smith.

Officials hope to fully contain the blaze by Saturday, when the National Weather Service predicts that moderate Santa Ana winds will move in and last through the weekend, Smith said.

“The majority of the concern … is down toward the bottom of the fire. It’s in a steep, narrow canyon,” she said. “It’s really rocky, so access is difficult.”

Even after firefighters establish a total containment line, they’ll remain to douse the fire and clean up the interior area so the fire doesn’t spread, Smith said.

The fire, which ignited Tuesday below the Mt. Wilson Observatory parking lot, has threatened the historic observatory and more than two dozen antenna towers.

Smith estimates that hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of communications equipment are at risk, including federal and county facilities used for emergency communications, commercial television facilities and radio transmitters. Damage to the communications towers could disrupt cellphones, television and radios, as well as interrupt some communications for emergency responders.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire, Smith said.

Times reporter Frank Shyong contributed to this report.

Reach Sonali Kohli at Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com or on Twitter @Sonali_Kohli.

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UPDATES:

11:20 a.m.: This story was updated to include the discovery of a burned body in the area.

This article was originally published at 10 a.m.

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