The Getty Center complex in Los Angeles has confirmed it's keeping its priceless art inside the museum, even as a fast-moving wildfire rages nearby.
On Monday, while firefighters raced to control a devastating wildfire in Northern California, a separate blaze broke out in the early hours near the Getty Center in the south of the state. Dubbed the 'Getty Fire', the blaze ripped through 656 acres of land, damaged a dozen homes and forced widespread evacuations across Los Angeles.
As high winds pushed the fire closer to the Getty Center – which comprises of the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation and the Getty Research Institute – officials confirmed that the art is staying inside the museum. Priceless art and archival collections that include Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Manet paintings, as well as ancient Greek statues and medieval manuscripts. Why? Because the Getty Center is likely the most blaze-proof fortress in a state vulnerable to wildfires.
Built in 1997 on a hillside in upscale Brentwood, the center describes itself as a "marvel of anti-fire engineering." Designed by architect Richard Meier, every part of the $1.3 billion center, from materials to design, controls and operations, are built to withstand fires and earthquakes. Even the land surrounding it is managed for fire protection year-round with irrigation, tree pruning and bush clearance. On Monday, as the fire drew close, the museum was closed to visitors and emergency procedures were immediately put into place.
“We knew we were coming into a red flag situation and we began pre-planning,” Mike Rogers, Getty’s director of facilities, said in a blogpost. “As soon as we get a red flag warning, we start to mobilize our monitoring of temperature and humidity conditions.”
The building is constructed from highly fire-resistant stone, concrete, and protected steel that prevent wind-blown embers from igniting, while the buildings are designed with fire separations. It's incredibly difficult for a fire to spread or even attack. As an extra precaution on Monday, staff sealed off galleries and the library archives from smoke by carbon-filtered air systems, and assisted firefighters in the areas they were working by switching on the irrigation system.
"Emergency planning and safety are things we do all year round. That’s part of our Getty culture, to think about fire safety,” Rogers added.
A state of emergency was declared on Monday as wildfires threatened homes and lives in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Massive blackouts are inevitable in the face of powerful Santa Ana winds, according to the LA Times. The Getty Center's parking lots have been serving as a hub for firefighters awaiting command as they work to contain the Getty Fire in the nearby hilltops.
"The dedication of our staff and the professionalism of our region’s first responders was nothing short of heroic," Getty president Jim Cuno said in a statement. "We are deeply grateful for their courage and hard work."
The Getty Center is likely to be closed throughout the week. Check the website for updates on opening dates and the National Weather Service for updates on the California wildfires.