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Fire at Phillips, art being moved

UPDATE: There was no major damage to the collection, according to museum spokeswoman Cecilia Wagner, and nobody was injured in the fire.

“All artwork is safe and secure," she said in a statement. "Museum conservators are currently evaluating the artwork, but nothing has incurred significant damage.”

The museum is closed until further notice.

ORIGINAL POST: The Phillips Collection, an art museum near Dupont Circle, has been evacuated and closed after a fire spread smoke through the building Thursday morning, authorities said.

Fire alarms went off at the building, located at 1600 21st Street NW, around 8:30 a.m. according to D.C. Fire Department spokesman Pete Piringer. A small fire broke out on the roof and in the ceiling of the top floor of the four-story building, Piringer said.

The cause is still under investigation, Piringer said, but the building is under renovation and investigators believe welding work may be the culprit.

Automatic sprinklers were set off on all four floors of the museum, Piringer said, containing the fire which was then extinguished by firefighters.

The building sustained moderate water damage on all four floors, Piringer said, with the top two sustaining moderate smoke damage.

Staff and firefighters moved artwork, according to Piringer, and the extent of any damage to the collection of French impressionist masterpieces and modern American work was not immediately known.

Power has been shut off to the building, and the museum and work site are closed pending a full investigation by building and fire inspectors. The Going Out Guide blog has information about the fire's effects on events at the museum.

The gallery was evacuated, he said. About 50 firefighters were at the gallery, he said. All have since left, apart from inspectors.

This item has been updated since it was first posted.

-- Mary Pat Flaherty and Paul Duggan

By Mary Pat Flaherty  |  September 2, 2010; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  Fires & Fire Safety , Mary Pat Flaherty , Paul Duggan , The District  
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Too bad the french artwork didn't get burned.

There are few things in life more pleasurable that watching anything french get destroyed.

Posted by: kenk3 | September 2, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

La culture américaine si est déjà dégradé et est détruite, vous devez vraiment habite en la gouttière de votre société. Longtemps vivre la France !

Posted by: goodblackpipe | September 2, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

kenk3 - your barbarity is breathtaking.

Posted by: crawfam | September 2, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Following the April 2007 fires at the Peabody Room/Georgetown Library and Eastern Market (though Eastern Market's fire's cause was not related to construction), the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of DC (est. 1865) made the following recommendations to the DC Council & DC Historic Preservation Office:

– Before any restoration, construction or repair is conducted on an historic structure or a structure housing or containing historically significant papers, artifacts or memorabilia, as part of the contractual process the project bidders and contract recipient would have to receive the approval of a committee or panel comprised of (at a minimum) the City’s Archivist, an historic preservation specialist and a risk management specialist. The processes and procedures to which the contractor would be held accountable would be spelled out in the contract.

– If any restoration, construction, rehabilitation or repair involves the use of heat guns or similar devices for paint removal, acetylene or other types of torches for welding, or any other heat-producing tools in effecting any repairs, the contractor would be required to pay the DC Fire & EMS Department for a unit and minimum crew to stand by on location during the use of the aforementioned tools.

To our knowledge, no new codes have been written nor existing ones updated.

There are too many fires resulting from 'roof repair,' 'paint removal,' etc. and, frankly, we were 'lucky' with the Phillips Collection. Fortunately, the G'town Branch Library & Peabody Collection is scheduled to re-open on Oct. 18th; however, had procedures similar to those proposed above been in place, the tragic fire may not have resulted as it did with the loss of artifacts and costly restoration of those pieces that survived.

Posted by: Downtownbrown | September 2, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Kenk3: Merde

Posted by: rrykken | September 2, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

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