Universal Studios Fire

Universal Studios fire

A major fire on the Universal Studios lot dominated the local news on Sunday. The fire broke out in the early morning and extensively damaged moviemaking facilities and exhibits. The Los Angeles Times reports that the properties destroyed include:

  • New York City streetscape: Used in countless movies and television shows. This set burned once before, in 1990, and was rebuilt.

  • King Kong: The King Kong exhibit on the Universal Studios tour. The exhibit included a 30-foot-tall moving model of King Kong.

  • “Back to the Future” set: The town square, including the courthouse area and the clock tower that plays a central roll in the film.

  • Video vaults: These vaults contained videos of numerous Universal-produced TV series and movies. Firefighters managed to remove some of the videotapes. “Nothing is lost forever,” Universal President Ron Meyer said of the videos.

  • Soundstage: At least one full soundstage.

The cause of the fire was unknown.

Freeman said Universal had installed a large-scale sprinkler system after a 1990 blaze, but it didn’t seem to work adequately today. Firefighters pulled water from ponds and lakes on the back lot. They also brought in a 6,000-gallon water tender.

“It appears the fire this morning overwhelmed fire protection features,” Freeman said. “We’re going to readily and quickly reevaluate that and see if that had any impact on the water pressure.”

At least 300 firefighters battled the blaze, including with water-dropping helicopters. The flames tore through the cavernous two-story video vault containing copies of television shows and movies, some dating to the 1920s. At one point, firefighters hastily removed canisters from the building by hand, but Universal officials said the archives were copies and no original works had been lost.

A photogallery of firefighters at work, and the destruction, is here.