Fire licks the edges of Getty Center, but the art is safe, the museum says

Fire trucks at a staging area on Sepulveda Boulevard near the Getty Center entrance.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The raging Getty fire has licked the edges of the Getty Center campus and threatens to encroach on the tram arrival platform, but the art and archives are safe, the museum said.

As water-dropping helicopters buzzed above the center Monday, Lisa Lapin, the museum’s vice president of communications, said she was on site with Getty President James Cuno, Chief Operating Officer Steven A. Olsen and security and facilities personnel. They had not been asked to evacuate, Lapin said, and they didn’t expect that to happen.


“The Getty is an incredibly safe place for the art,” she said. “It’s sealed and it’s secure. There are double walls. We’re very confident. The Getty Center is safe right now thanks to a combination of our fire prevention measures and the fire fight from the air. Once the sun came up, it’s been quite aggressive in terms of planes and helicopters.”

The museum’s emergency plans do not call for evacuating art. When the Getty Center opened, the buildings and grounds had been designed as the safest place for the collection in the event of a disaster.

A 1-million-gallon reserve water tank is on site. At about 2 a.m., the museum began using that water to irrigate the property, Lapin said.

Brush is cleared regularly, and plants with the highest water content are planted closest to the buildings, Lapin said. She also noted the museum’s travertine and metal exterior.

The deleterious effects of air pollution on the art is the main concern, but the museum’s sophisticated air filtration system is doing its job just fine, the museum said. The system works something like a reverse air conditioner, forcing filtered air through the galleries while maintaining the necessary temperature and humidity levels. With the buildings are closed, no doors open to let in polluted air.

This Getty Center closed because of a raging wildfire in December 2017, but that blaze burned on the other side of the 405 Freeway. Although the flames came closer Monday, the museum said it was safe.


The Getty Center has closed for the day because of wildfires burning across the 405 Freeway, but officials say the flames pose no immediate danger to the museum’s art.

Dec. 6, 2017

“We really are OK,” Lapin reiterated. “Our vistas will be a little bit different. It will look different to the north and the west.”

The biggest concern, Lapin said, was the museum’s neighbors.

“Some have lost their homes,” she said, “and that is tragic.”

Lapin said the Getty Center in Brentwood and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades will remain closed Tuesday to allow emergency responders the space they need.

“We are safe, the fire is largely knocked down, but there are still hot spots,” Lapin said in a follow-up email midafternoon Monday. “Fire crews are using Getty Center as a staging area, a rest area, and a logistics base to view the fire and make operations decisions.”

The Getty fire is a wind-driven brush fire that erupted about 1:30 a.m. along the 405. It spread south and west and quickly consumed more than 500 acres. About 10,000 structures have been placed under mandatory evacuation orders. The evacuation zone includes Mulholland Drive on the northern side, the 405 on the east, Sunset Boulevard on the south and Temescal Canyon Road on the west.

The Skirball Cultural Center, which sits a few miles north of the Getty Center, said it was not threatened by the fire but was closing until further notice because of poor air quality and road closures.