Police Say Universal Fire was an Accident but Questions Linger

Police Say Universal Fire was an Accident but Questions Linger
Three workers admit they set blaze by accident, but why were there fires all over the lot?
By Brian Frederick Hollywood Today

HOLLYWOOD, CA (RUSHPRNEWS) 6/4/08 – – 5,000 of LA’s finest fire fighters battled one of the most devastating fires in the history of Universal Studios -or any studio. The three alarm blaze covering more than three and a half acres was started by accident, according to LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. In a news conference this afternoon with city officials, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Michael Freeman stated, “workers had been using a blowtorch to heat asphalt shingles to apply to the roof.” The roof work conducted by two employees and one supervisor was followed by the policy of watching the roof for one hour after they finished around 3 a.m., when the hour was up, the employees took their break. At 4:43 a.m. studio security discovered the fire and immediately called in the fire department, by then the fire was out of control.

The New York Street production lot which was burned down in a total loss is primarily made of compressed particle board and the buildings that line the street are skeletal frames with only fronts. Combined with dry pressed wood and access to air, any fire that would ignite on the set uncontrolled would burn swiftly, devouring anything in its path. From the King Kong exhibit, the fire grew to the psycho house nearly 100 yards away. Unfortunately one of Universal’s video storage vaults was also consumed in the fire. A Universal spokesperson has stated that “back ups are available.”

Despite fire investigators determining that the fire was indeed an accident, city officials expressed different concerns. The biggest problem on the fire line was the “inadequate water pressure” expressed by many fire fighters. This may have contributed to the fire reaching the psycho house. In 1990 Universal suffered a sever fire at the hands of a disgruntled employee who was caught and sentenced to jail for four and a half years. After the 1990 fire, Universal upgraded the sprinkler systems which were maintained to code as of Sunday. Nonetheless, the added lines consuming more water and the widespread area the fire burned could be a reason the water pressure was low. Chief Freeman stated there will be an investigation “from stern to stern.”

Another concern for fire investigators is the exact cause of the accident and why a fire would start when workers adhered to the rules of watching the roof for one hour and then leaving. One obvious answer for investigators is that the workers may have failed to completely extinguish the flame on the blowtorch.

Universal’s own fire department arrived four minutes after the fire was reported only to find the New York Street lot engulfed in a ball of blazing fire. Freeman stated the investigation would be completed by June 13. Although the fire closed Universal to tourists for one day, it opened the following day.

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