California fires: Why the Getty Centre, home to Van Gogh and Rembrandt masterpieces, is the safest place right now

While the authorities are working on calming down the blaze that threatens approximately 90,000 buildings areas across the evacuation zone, the Centre and its prized works of art won't be affected and here's why. 


                            California fires: Why the Getty Centre, home to Van Gogh and Rembrandt masterpieces, is the safest place right now

The state of California has been ravaged by at least nine wildfires in the past two weeks with the latest one near the Getty Center in Los Angeles, after starting at the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center Drive exit. While authorities are working on fighting the blaze that threatens approximately 90,000 buildings across the evacuation zone, the Centre and its prized works of art won't be affected and here's why. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Firefighters battled a blaze near the Getty Center early Monday morning. Los Angeles, CA on Oct. 28, 2019. (Staff photo by Bradley Bermont/SCNG)

 

The Getty Center, designed by Richard Meier & Partners in 1997 is designed with many fire-resistant mechanisms including stone wall expanses and fire doors that leave no place for the fire to burn. According to a New York Times interview with Ron Hartwig, vice-president of communications for the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Centre was built with the fire-prone nature of the hills in mind. The Centre has thick travertine stone covering the inside of the walls and sprinklers in place. “The safest place for the artwork to be is right here in the Getty Center,” he said.

The Centre houses works of artists like Rembrandt and Van Gogh as well as Roman and Greek antiquities, images and manuscripts among other valuables. There is a air-conditioning system that has carbon filtered air which expels smoke instead of letting it in. The sprinklers are designed to stay dry until they are needed. "Should any fire move within one of those compartmentalized areas, it can’t get anywhere,” said Michael G. Rogers, director of facilities at the Getty. 

Lisa Lapin, spokesperson for the Getty Museum told CNN, "Our buildings are stone, concrete and steel; the rooftops are stone, to prevent embers from landing and igniting," adding, "We manage the landscape for fires. We have extensive brush clearance programs and plantings that are more fire-resistant," she said. The museum houses over 125,000 separate works and in totality their value run in "many tens of millions" she said. 

The Centre also houses a million-gallon water tank which is kept under the parking garage in case of a fire. The area near the center also has fire-resistant shrubbery like Oak that will keep the fires from spreading and growing. The area is also cleared of any grass that may aid the fire.

So far, the wildfire has blazed through more than 600 acres, but its spread has slowed, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. Celebrities including Josh Duhamel and Arnold Schwarzenegger have said that they evacuated their homes in the area. The museum tweeted that the center will remain closed on Tuesday, October 29, to allow fire personnel ample space to work. 

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