Historic film sets destroyed by huge fire at Universal Studios

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Hollywood woke up to a scene straight from one of its own disaster movies yesterday, after a massive fire broke out at the city's biggest film studio, destroying several historic film sets and damaging one of the industry's most valuable video archives.

Some 300 firefighters were called to Universal Studios in Los Angeles early on Sunday, after a blaze broke out in a backlot area containing New York and New England street scenes, which had been used in such well-known productions as Seinfeld and War of the Worlds.

The famous courthouse square where the final scenes of Back to the Future were filmed was ravaged by the flames, while the artificial clock tower that allowed Michael J Fox to travel forward in time during the film was reported to have been damaged.

"There's some Hollywood history going up in smoke today, and we're doing our best to minimise the damage," said James Barnes of the LA County Fire Department yesterday.

A warehouse holding video vaults containing 40,000 original and master versions of old Universal films was also burnt to the ground. Initial reports said the contents of the vaults had been "compromised" though it was unclear whether anything irreplaceable had been lost.

Helicopters dropped water on several structures within the 230-acre site, while water cannons struggled to prevent 100ft flames spreading to adjacent buildings. Thick black smoke poured more than half a mile into the air, causing a haze that blanketed the western side of the city as day broke.

The fire, which was first reported at around 4.45am, had been contained to a single structure by 9am. It was not immediately clear how the fire started, although a soundstage on the lot was used for filming over the weekend, meaning that the finger of suspicion initially pointed towards a fault with one of its electrical appliances.

Frank Garrido, the LA County fire inspector, told a press conference that the Universal Studios theme park, a well known tourist attraction on the site, had also lost its King Kong exhibit, in which a giant ape bellows at tram passengers. Three firefighters were reported injured.

Universal, which is owned by General Electric, has seen the production of hundreds of Hollywood's most iconic films during its long history, including When Harry Met Sally, ET, and Jaws. Steven Spielberg also houses his production company Amblin Entertainment on the site.



AP footage of the fire



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific