December 13th, 2017

LA’s Getty Center was built with fire protection in mind


By John Antczak, The Associated Press on December 6, 2017.

LOS ANGELES – A destructive wildfire that erupted early Wednesday burned not far from The Getty Center, the $1 billion home to the J. Paul Getty Museum and related organizations that overlooks Los Angeles from a perch on the southern slope of the Santa Monica Mountains.

The campus, which houses collections ranging from pre-20th century European paintings to Roman and Greek antiquities, tapestries, photographs and manuscripts, sits on the west side of Sepulveda Pass, a major thoroughfare on the city’s west side.

The fire was reported at 4:52 a.m. on the east side of the pass alongside Interstate 405 and quickly raced up steep slopes into the tony neighbourhoods of the Bel Air area, destroying some homes as firefighters and aircraft sought to beat it down.

A 5 a.m. National Weather Service report showed a 22 mph wind and 33 mph gust at the Getty, followed by higher and variable winds later through the morning, but the fire did not jump across the pass even though the plume curled westward and out to sea.

If it had, the Getty would have been prepared. Officials have described how fire protection was designed into the facility by architect Richard Meier, including the thickness of the walls and doors to compartmentalize any fire.

Smoke detection and sprinklers are ever-present along with pressurization systems to keep smoke out or reverse flow if it does get in.

The centre has its own reservoir to supply suppression systems if necessary, and there’s an on-site helipad to fill helicopters with water. Hydrants throughout the extensive property are fed from a large-diameter loop.

The immediate zone around the building is kept green with fire-resistant plants, and the expansive acreage surrounding the campus is rigorously kept clear of grasses. Canopies of oak trees also serve to suppress the growth of vegetation that could feed a fire.

The Getty Center closed the day before the fire to prevent any harm to its collection from smoke from existing fires in Los Angeles County. It remained closed Wednesday.

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