Arsonist sets 9 spot fires near historic Lowell Observatory

Posted by Eric Betz
on Friday, June 12, 2015

Dating from 1915, the Slipher Building at Lowell is named for V.M. and E.C. Slipher and houses astronomers' offices and the Rotunda Library Museum open for guided daytime tours at the Observatory. Steele Wotkyns / Lowell Observatory
An unknown arsonist set nine spot fires within sight of Lowell Observatory on Wednesday and sent staff scrambling to put the blazes out with garden equipment, according to the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff.

The paper reports that the observatory’s sole trustee, Lowell Putnam, great-grandnephew of Percival Lowell, was having family over at his home on Mars Hill when a staff member smelled smoke and sounded the alarm.

More than a dozen family members and staff armed themselves with garden tools to put out flames in burning pine needles and logs. The nearest fire was visible from the observatory’s parking lot.

According to the Daily Sun, two Flagstaff wildfire crews had the fires completely extinguished by 11 p.m. No arrests have been made, but the Flagstaff Police Department is investigating. Please contact them if you have any information into the case. The observatory remains open to the public.

The historic Mars Hill observatory site is home to the Pluto Discovery Telescope used by Clyde Tombaugh to find Pluto in 1930, as well as the recently refurbished 24-inch Clark Refractor, famously used by Percival Lowell to sketch canals on the Red Planet. It’s also where V.M. Slipher became the first to discover the expanding universe.

Read the full story here: http://goo.gl/j4qWvS

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