Fire at Universal Studios destroys sets, videos

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. " Authorities will try to determine Monday whether the blaze that destroyed some of Hollywood's most famous backdrops was made worse because of low water pressure and an overwhelmed sprinkler system.

At one point, Sunday's fire at Universal Studios was two city blocks wide, and low water pressure forced firefighters to get reserves from lakes and ponds on the property. The blaze was contained to the back lot, but burned for more than 12 hours before the final flames were extinguished.

"The water pressure situation was a challenge," Los Angeles County Fire Chief Michael Freeman said. "This fire moved extremely fast."

A sprinkler system on the outdoor sets was nearly useless, Freeman told the Los Angeles Times.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said authorities would investigate the water problems to see whether they reflect a larger shortfall in the area, which is part of his district.

"There's no question that there was a lack of adequate water pressure at least in the perception of a lot of firefighters," he said. "We're going to find out what the problem was."

Universal Studios is a theme park but its back lot also a working studio, complete with streetscapes and soundstages. Sunday's fire destroyed the courthouse square from "Back to the Future" and a streetscape featured in "Bruce Almighty," "Spiderman 2" and "Transformers."

It was the second fire at the historic site in two decades, leveling facades, hollowing out buildings and creating the kind of catastrophe filmmakers relish re-creating. This time around, thousands of videos chronicling Universal's movie and TV shows were destroyed in the blaze.

But Universal officials said that they were thankful no one was seriously injured at the theme park and that the damaged footage can be replaced.

"We have duplicates of everything," said NBC Universal President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer. "Nothing is lost forever."

Universal officials didn't immediately say what their future plans would be for th

The blaze broke out on a sound stage featuring New York brownstone facades around 4:30 a.m. at the 400-acre property, Freeman said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Damage estimates were not available, but costs are expected to move into the millions.


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