Art or Fire Fodder?
By Scarlett Davis
Art or Fire Fodder?
California ablaze since summer, as a part of a series of wildfires starting Monday, a new wildfire breaks way on Wednesday the morning of December 6th, 2017, causing panic and the closure of parts of Interstate 405, as rapid flames taunt the Los Angeles area with Bel-Air, UCLA, and The Getty Center Arts Complex as potential sources of high end fodder for the fire.
As for now these infrastructures seem to be withstanding the destruction. Getty Center spokesperson has said the building was designed to withstand fires and natural disaster, noting that this is not the Getty’s first fire. As testament, the complex lacks a vault for the art. Instead, relying on its complex air filtration systems and its adorning fire repellent shrubbery, as well as its exterior of stone and metal, difficult for fire to penetrate.
The story continues to develop as fires in the region rage on. The coverage has been Biblical with its images of homes and buildings on fire, and the mass exodus of tens of thousands of celebrities and people alike forced to evacuate their homes . Coined the Skirball Fire for its proximity to the Skirball center, the flames erupted at 4:52 AM burning 150 acres, as wind-whipped fires marched uphill at 25 mph along the 405 freeway in the Sepulveda Pass. Motorist along the highway took to their phones, showing the world on social media the same dangerous and beautiful “orange ball of light.”
Along with three other major wildfires in the California area, the Thomas, the Creek, and the Rye Fires, fire authorities have their hands full as they attempt to curtail these unusually high winds matched with extremely dry terrain. The aftermath has also resulted in school closings, massive power outages, and smoke hazards. The state is in red flag warning, reserved for extreme weather conditions with potential for wildfire until 8 PM on Friday.
The culprit of the inferno is attributed to the Santa Ana winds. Raymond Chandler once wrote, “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.” Indeed, we are reminded of the ambivalence of nature’s wrath and its unpredictability. However as Chandler alluded to, nature's presence can feel as ominous as it can ambivalent.
The stories emerging of people being faced with losing everything, right amidst the holiday season, only adds to the overwhelming heartbreak of the fire’s destruction. However, with stories of strife come tales of resilience and community, as people come together in support as a country. Nature, like fire, is a great and terrible beauty, but with the fuel for destruction comes the fuel for the imagination.