One of several wildfires raging in the hills above Los Angeles is “directly across the freeway” from the Getty Center, the main campus of the J. Paul Getty Trust and home to the Getty Museum, according to the Trust’s vice president for communications. In an interview with blogger Lee Rosenbaum, Ron Hartwig of the Getty said that the institution “was really designed and built to protect against disasters like a major fire.”
The Skirball fire, which has consumed over 150 acres and is at the Getty’s doorstep, forced the institution to close its doors to the public yesterday and remain closed today. “The Getty Center is closed to the public today,” the museum said in a tweet this morning. “Air filtration systems are protecting the galleries from smoke.”
Los Angeles Mayor Erik Garcetti has declared a local state of emergency in the area affected by the Skirball fire, Deadline reported. It is one of the smaller of several wildfires burning in the Los Angeles area, but it is in a relatively densely populated area that includes the tony neighborhood of Bel Air and borders the campus of UCLA.
The fire erupted early Wednesday morning and has destroyed at least four homes, according to ABC7. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, it is 0% contained, . One of many dramatic videos uploaded by commuters passing the fire in the early morning hours ominously captures the highway exit sign for Getty Center Drive against a backdrop of a hillside blanketed in flames.
According to Hartwig, the Getty campus’s many buildings and the priceless artworks they hold are not at risk from the fire. “Our air filtration system is very sophisticated: It basically reverses, so that air is pushed out rather than in and smoke is not able to get into the galleries to damage the collection in any way. So the best place for the collection is right here at the Getty,” he told Rosenbaum. “Even the landscaping is designed so that the plants with the highest water content are closest to the building. Further away, there is more brush. But we also maintain the brush, so that we don’t have combustible materials. The buildings themselves are made of travertine and metal panels.” He added that the Getty Center will remain closed on Thursday.
The neighboring Skirball Cultural Center has also closed as a result of the wildfire. “Due to the brushfire in the vicinity, the Skirball will be closed today 12/6 until further notice,” the institution announced in a series of tweets. “Our thoughts are with all our neighbors, and our thanks to the first responders working to keep us safe.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, one of the private properties damaged by the Skirball fire is the $28.8-million winery and estate of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Update, 12/7/2017: The Getty Center and Getty Villa will reopen to the public on Friday, December 8. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Getty Center has served “as a fire base for out-of -town crews that need a place to rest, eat and sleep.” The nearby Skirball Cultural Center has not announced when it will reopen.