Museum known for fine art is now home to firefighters battling California wildfires

A Los Angeles museum built to protect fine art from flames is now housing firefighters battling the Getty Fire.

The J. Paul Getty Museum isn’t moving its art collections for the same reason fire crews are stationed there: The buildings and the grounds were designed with California’s wildfires in mind.

The Getty Fire has forced evacuations as it burned hundreds of acres on the hills above Los Angeles. As of Thursday morning the fire had grown to almost 750 acres and was 27% contained, according to the L.A. Fire Department.

The conditions could get worse in Southern California, LAFD said as it issued an “extreme red flag warning.” The department said to expect winds up to 50 mph with gusts up to 70 mph in the Santa Monica mountains.

As of Tuesday evening, 12 homes had been destroyed in the Getty Fire and another five damaged, the fire department said.

“There is no need to evacuate the art or archives, because they are already in the safest place possible: the Getty Center itself,” the museum said Tuesday on its blog.

The large Getty property has also been “serving as a hub for emergency responders,” the center said.

The center shared photos and video on Twitter of firefighters taking advantage of the museum restaurant’s high terrace.

“Firefighters are stationed here on lookout and to assist with logistics for helicopter operations,” the museum tweeted.

The Getty Center’s buildings are made from “travertine stone walls and floors, cement and steel construction, and stone on rooftops that prevents wind-blown embers from igniting.”

The grounds also have a large irrigation system and crews keep the property clear of brush that could spread the fire, the museum said.

The museum said, “We sealed off museum galleries and the library archives from smoke by state-of-the-art air systems. The double-walled construction of the galleries, which are literally buildings unto themselves within the bigger building, also provided significant protection for the collections.”

“We knew we were coming into a red flag situation and we began pre-planning,” Getty facilities director Mike Rogers said. “As soon as we get a red flag warning, we start to mobilize our monitoring of temperature and humidity conditions.”

“Emergency planning and safety are things we do all year round. That’s part of our Getty culture, to think about fire safety,” he said.

Related stories from Merced Sun-Star

Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.