A huge and devastating fire has destroyed a large section of backlot. At it's height over 400 firefighters were on the scene. It was reported around 4.45am in the chapel on New England Street and spread rapidly through the New York Street facades. It was not fully extinguished until almost 17 hours later. Areas destroyed or damaged:
- King Kong attraction soundstage (the fire spread from adjacent buildings via the roof, so the sprinkler systems were defeated). The attraction will be replaced with a new design - the official word is that the giant ape will not return.
- Courthouse Square (at least two sides of the square are destroyed - the Courthouse itself, once again, has been spared). Ghost Whisperer production will be affected.
- New York Street
- New England Street
- Video Vaults adjacent to New York Street. As duplicate copies are kept elsewhere, no material was believed to have been lost forever. The film vaults are elsewhere and were not affected. UPDATE: The studio's print of 1998 Robin Williams movie What Dreams May Come was lost in the fire - after a worldwide search, a copy was found in Europe.
Fire fighters are blaming water pressure problems on the spread of the fire. The fire protection features introduced after the 1990 fire were said to be not working properly. It's understood that deluge tanks were installed and designed to dump water on the facades to extinguish fire instantly. It's not known whether these functioned correctly. Water had to be taken from nearby Park Lake and Jaws Lake and from hydrants outside the studio.
Nine firefighters and a Sheriff's deputy sustained minor injuries during the fire, and from an explosion in the video vault when a bulldozer, trying to clear a path to the seat of the fire, ran over something.
The cause of the fire is now believed to have been a blowtorch used by workmen to repair the chapel roof on New England Street around 3am. They reportedly followed policy of standing watch for an hour (to spot any fire after the work) then went for a break. The fire was reported at 4.43am by a security guard. The Universal City Fire crew were on scene four minutes later, by which time a whole block of facades was engulfed.
- Before / After photo
- Video footage of the early stages of the fire
- Fire Photo Gallery
- Press release about the rebuilding work