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Fire threat empties California art center

VISITORS to California's world-famous Getty Center art complex, which houses works by Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh, had to be evacuated as a fire burned in thick brush on the steep slopes of the Santa Monica Mountains.

The fire was 90 percent contained late on Wednesday night after erupting early in the afternoon and quickly growing to 32 hectares above parking facilities for the Getty.

About 350 firefighters worked on rugged slopes, and seven helicopters pounded flames with water from a nearby reservoir. One firefighter suffered a foot injury.

By the time the helicopters were grounded for darkness the blaze was mostly under control, and foot crews were looking for lingering hot spots.

Fire Chief Douglas Barry said the blaze began about just over a kilometer from the Getty and moved away to the east as winds blew out of the west. Officials said equipment used by a brush clearance crew sparked the fire.

About 800 employees and 1,600 visitors to the hilltop complex were shuttled to the center's south building as a precaution.

The Getty has a collection ranging from European paintings to illuminated manuscripts and photographs.

Nearby to the north, Mount St Mary's College was evacuated as a precaution even though the fire was about 2 kilometers away and a canyon lay between it and the school, spokeswoman Sarah Scopio said.

College was not in session but 100 staff members evacuated along with about 200 other people attending a conference, Scopio said. The school used campus shuttles to take them out until the all-clear was given, she said.


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