View down into neighborhood from the perspective of a burned hillside.

View toward a nearby residential area from a hillside that burned in the recent Getty Fire. Photo: Christopher Sprinkle

Brentwood’s Norman Canyon smelled wet and smoky, “like the day after a campfire,” according to Brian Houck, Getty’s Head of Grounds and Gardens. He was on-site as part of an ongoing post-fire mitigation effort.

In October, the Getty Fire burned 745 acres north of Getty Center, prompting widespread evacuations and leaving a charred landscape that’s susceptible to falling debris and mud if it rains. Much of the burned area is on land owned and managed as open space by the Getty Trust, in watersheds high above several Brentwood Hills neighborhoods.

Two men in safety vests and hats working on pipes next to a hillside.

Workers at the Getty Center perform mitigation to guard against debris. Photo: Christopher Sprinkle

While planned, Houck said this work was fast-tracked to get ahead of predicted rain. A helicopter was busy dropping wattles, straw-filled tubing that is being layered across the hillsides to capture debris and absorb runoff.

“What the Getty is doing is adding a layer of protection for our neighbors,” said Houck. “Our property is up canyon from neighbors on Bundy and Norman drives, and we want to make sure we’re doing all we can on the portion of the burn area that we manage.”

Above Bundy, these wattles will prevent the soil from sliding when it rains. On Chalon Rd., a service road between the Getty and the Norman Gate, concrete K-Rails have been erected with fencing on top to stop rolling rocks. Additionally, steel mesh fences are being anchored across a number of canyons and gullies to hold back any debris.

Getty officials are meeting with local neighbors to discuss the preventive measures ahead of the anticipated rains. Getty is one of numerous landowners in the Getty Fire zone, each responsible for managing their own property.

Less than 24 hours after the fire began, Getty had a post-fire mitigation team on the ground, working with contractors to stabilize the steep terrain and install state-of-the-art steel barriers across the canyons. The barriers act like large metal nets to collect falling rocks, partially burned brush, tree stumps and limbs, and other debris loosened by the fire. Water can pass through the nets, but large objects cannot move downhill toward homes.

Getty has a strong culture of safety and community, and fire prevention is a year-round focus for Houck and his crew. In the open space wildland area, Getty routinely clears brush, keeping vegetation to a minimum for at least 200 feet from any structures along the border of its property. The Getty Center and immediately surrounding land have been planted with drought-resistant plants and oak trees, whose canopies are regularly pruned to prevent them from becoming fuel for fire.

At the fire’s height, more than 1,100 firefighters from throughout the region were on the scene of the Getty Fire, so named for the fact that it originated off the 405 Freeway north of the Getty Center Drive exit, almost two miles from the Getty Center museum complex.

The fire was fully contained on November 5. The Getty Center’s staff, buildings, and art collections were all safe and secure during the fire. Only the wild open-space areas experienced fire impacts.