The Skirball fire is dangerously close to the Getty Center. Here’s how the museum is preparing for the worst

OCRegister Incident 10 months ago

As the 150-acre Skirball fire burns through brush near the Getty Center, the museum has a plan to keep the fire away from its valuable art collection.

When the architect, Richard Meier, and design team envisioned the center 20 years ago, they knew it would be built on a hill in a more secluded area with a native habitat. They also knew that it would hold a lot of valuable art.

Getty Center spokesperson Ron Hartwig said that the building was designed to protect the art collection in the event of a major disaster like the Skirball fire. “It’s the safest place an art collection can be,” he added.

The building is made out of travertine stone and metal panels and the landscaping is arranged in such a way that the plants with the highest water content surround the museum. In addition, brush is kept clear on the outskirts.

  • RELATED: 150-acre Skirball fire in Sepulveda Pass closes northbound 405 Freeway, burns at least 4 homes

An air filtration system is keeping the galleries free of smoke, according to a tweet from the Getty Center and the museum has a 1 million gallon tank of water reserved on site. Hartwig said that the center hasn’t used that water yet, but they have been in talks with the fire department regarding its potential use.

The building’s fire precautions doesn’t mean the Getty Center staff isn’t worried about the art. Essential staff members, including security and facilities people, are currently on site right working on irrigation operations.

“We will not stop worrying until the last ember is out,” Hartwig said.

The collection at The Getty includes old master paintings, manuscripts, drawing collections, photographs, sculpture and antiquities. Hartwig said he didn’t have an immediate answer on what the art may be collectively valued at.

“So much of the work is simply priceless,” he said.

At least four homes across the way from the Getty Center had been destroyed and two others may have been damaged in the fire as of 9:30 a.m., Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a news conference.

“We are grateful that the fire is not on this side and grateful that the building was designed in such a way to resist the fire,” Hartwig said. “We are so concerned for our neighbors across the street. They are the ones who are directly facing the fire, and our thoughts go out to them.”

This isn’t the first time the Getty Center has been through a fire, but it is one of the larger fires the center has seen, Hartwig said.

In 2009, a fire burned through 80 acres at the Sepulveda Pass and prompted the evacuation of 2,400 people from the center.

Another fire near Getty Center Drive broke out in 2012 and burned through 90 acres.

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