Washington DC USA: Fire Breaks Out At The Phillips Collection

Fire Breaks Out At The Phillips Collection

A fire, which one employee is describing as “serious,” broke out at the Phillips Collection this morning. Firefighters set up outside the Phillips, located at 1600 21st Street NW, and proceeded to climb onto the roof, where they were operating with saws and hooks.

“I work there, and we aren’t allowed in the building yet,” said an employee at the Collection, who wished to remain anonymous. “Looks like some pretty severe damage to the old historic part of the museum. No word on the cause of the fire.”

Artwork is being moved now by emergency responders, who worked with curators on an overhaul strategy. D.C. Fire and EMS spokesperson Pete Peringer said that the gallery’s “sprinkler system did control the fire,” which took “about 10 to 15 minutes” to extinguish. Peringer also noted that there was some smoke in the air, which obviously has the potential to cause some issues with the art. We haven’t been able to get any confirmation regarding any potential damage of artwork at the gallery, but we will certainly update when that information becomes available — we tried to contact someone over at the gallery, but their phone lines appear to be down at the moment.

Traffic in the surrounding area has also been detoured around Q, R and 21st Streets NW.

UPDATE (10:42 a.m.): TBD is reporting that the fire might have been caused by the construction that is going on at the building. They also provide the following update.

Construction damage is not significant. All four floors suffered smoke and water damage. “I’m not a curator of art,” says a Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Crosswhite. “But anytime you have smoke and water you have damage.”
The fire, Crosswhite says, was in section where permanent collection and masterworks are.

Doesn’t sound too good, although friend of DCist Kriston Capps notes that many of the gallery’s most important works were not currently on display.

UPDATE (11:15 a.m.): And now, the official word from the Phillips Collection. The good news is that none of the artwork suffered “significant” damage and no one was injured — the bad news is that the Museum is closed until further notice. The full release, from Phillips spokesperson Cecilia Wagner:

This morning, there was a renovation-related fire on the roof of the Phillips House.
The fire was contained and extinguished. No one was injured. All artwork is safe and secure. Museum conservators are currently evaluating the artwork but nothing has incurred significant damage. The building condition is being evaluated as well.

The Museum is closed until further notice. Phillips after 5 has been postponed. This evening’s GW class, “The Peformative Impulse in American Art,” will take place as planned at the Center for Study of Modern Art from 6-8:30 pm.

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