Herald-Whig

LA's Getty Center built to protect its treasures from flames

The Getty Center is seen after a wildfire swept through Los Angeles' Bel Air neighborhood Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. The Getty Center, the $1 billion home to the J. Paul Getty Museum and related organizations, stands on the west side of Sepulveda Pass. The fire did not immediately cross the wide expanse of the pass to the Getty side, but if it had, the facility is prepared. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
The Associated Press
By JOHN ANTCZAK
Posted: Dec. 6, 2017 7:00 am Updated: Dec. 6, 2017 8:48 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Getty Center art complex in Los Angeles made sure it could protect its priceless artwork and antiquities from flames like those just across a freeway Wednesday, from its landscaping to a space for helicopters to land.

Officials say fire protection was designed into the facility by architect Richard Meier, including the thickness of the walls and doors to compartmentalize any flames. The $1 billion home of the J. Paul Getty Museum sits in the Santa Monica Mountains and has been closed to prevent harm to its works from smoke from several wildfires.

Its collections range from pre-20th century European paintings to Roman and Greek antiquities, tapestries, photographs and manuscripts, all protected by extensive anti-fire systems outside and in.

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

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

The immediate zone around the building is kept green with fire-resistant plants, and the expansive area 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 blaze.

The Getty Center is on the west side of Interstate 405, and the fire ignited on the east side. It quickly raced up steep slopes into the wealthy neighborhoods of the Bel-Air area, destroying some homes as firefighters and aircraft sought to beat it down. Despite strong winds, the blaze did not jump the highway.