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.

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3 thoughts on “Universal Studios Fire

  1. It was the first thing I heard when I turned on my radio this morning (I listen to The Jesus Christ Show on KFI!) ; rehearsing the worship team for church we could really smell that weird plasticized smoke… not good.

    I’m really sorry about the loss of the Back To The Future town square… *sigh*

    At one point I heard there were 400 firefighters working on the blaze, sadly some have been injured–

  2. I watched the fire live on MS-NBC yesterday morning, and it looked horrific. Thanks for the details. It’s a relief to hear “Nothing is lost forever.” I’m glad that I had a chance to visit and see the Back to the Future town square before it went up in smoke.

  3. I’m glad you got to see Courthouse Square! Today the LA Times reports the cause of the fire was probably caused by accident (exact cause still being investigated). The truthfulness of the claim that nothing has been permanently lost is being greeted with skepticism by a few film buffs, on general principle. They think the studios resist spending enough to preserve archival film (some were lost in a Paramount fire years ago), so would they really have no unique prints/videos in the vault, only copies?

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