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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Universal Fire Destroys Iconic Stages

A fire at the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood destroys several icons from movies, such as Courthouse Square, the clock tower from Back to the Future, and the King Kong exhibit on the studio tour.

Although upset about the incident, Universal officials have expressed relief that no one was seriously injured and say that any damaged footage can be easily replaced.

The blaze broke out in the early morning hours on a sound stage featuring New York brownstone facades. A commercial shoot was going on when the fire broke out, but the cause of the fire is still under investigation. Damage is expected to be in the millions of dollars with the iconic courthouse square from Back to the Future being one of the greatest losses, which included the famous clock tower. Firefighting helicopters swept in for drops and cranes dumped water on the flames. A thick column of smoke rose thousands of feet into the air and could be seen for miles.

Two mock New York and New England streets used both for movie-making and as tourist displays were complete and total losses. At one point the blaze was two city blocks wide. The resulting demand on hydrants caused low water pressure, forcing firefighters to access lakes and ponds on the property. While the flames raged on into normal park operating hours hundreds of tourists waited outside the closed gates. Unfortunately, the park was unable to open for the day, disappointing those guests as well as an estimated 25,000 others who would normally be visiting on a typical weekend day.

Several firefighters suffered minor injuries, and one firefighter and a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy were slightly hurt when a pressurized cylinder exploded inside the building housing the video archives. The vault is estimated to have been holding 40,000 to 50,000 videos and reels that burned. The videos included every film that Universal has produced and footage from many television series including Miami Vice and I Love Lucy. However, duplicates are wisely stored in a different location.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse. People could have been killed, archives could have been lost forever, but both tragedies were averted. And now Hollywood will do what Hollywood does best... rebuild, and reinvented itself.

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