At 4:30 this morning fire broke out on the Universal Studios back lot, an area famous for being the location for many movies and television shows. The fire burned for almost 12 hours before being extinguished by Los Angeles fire fighters. Fire department officials did not allow the famous Universal Studios theme park and adjacent Universal City Walk to open for business today. Patrons waited patiently outside the gates of the park waiting for word on when they could enter. As time passed, patrons were given water to combat the heat of the day. Finally at 2:00, park officials declared that the park would not open at all. Disappointed customers were offered complimentary passes to allow them to return at a later time. One group of visitors had traveled from France to tour the park and had to leave late Sunday on a returning flight. Ten emergency personnel were injured in the fire, but no deaths. Four hundred firefighters battled the blaze as well as a severe lack of water availability. Fire sprinkler system had been installed after a fire in 1990, but according to Chief Michael Freeman of the L.A. County Fire Department, the size of the blaze overwhelmed the system causing the low water pressure. Water was pumped in from man-made lakes near the park to battle the blaze.
The fire, currently under investigation erupted in an unknown area of the famous back lot area of the park. Anyone who has taken the back lot tour of Universal Studios knows that many famous scenes were part of the tour. Among the sights destroyed were: the New York City street set (seen in movies like Bruce Almighty and numerous television shows), courthouse square – the famous focal point of the town of Hill valley in the Back to the Future movies, the King Kong attraction – only the four outer walls of the structure remain in tact. Additionally, two of the sets used for the television series The Ghost Whisperer starring Jennifer Love Hewitt were destroyed in the fire. Also damaged in the fire was a small part of the Universal video archive library. Ron Meyer president of Universal Studios says, “fortunately, noting irreplaceable was lost.” No mention of whether or not the most famous landmark of the back lot – the Psycho house and accompanying Bates Motel – was affected.
The MTV Movie Awards, scheduled for this evening at the Universal Amphitheatre were not affected and went on as scheduled.
Officials at Universal Studios have said that the park and back lot tour will be open for business as usual on Monday, June 2. However, a word to the wise – if you have plans to attend Universal Studios tomorrow, you might call ahead just to make sure.
NOTE: Information on this story was provided by CBS2 news in Los Angeles, CA.