Hollywood fire sparked by roofers' blowtorch

The inferno that razed a two-city-block area and destroyed the adjacent Back to the Future Courthouse Square at Universal Studios was accidentallyy ignited by workers using heating tools on the roof of a movie set building facade, fire officials said.

Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said an investigation revealed the fire was sparked by three members of a studio work crew using a blowtorch to heat asphalt shingles to apply to the roof. They completed their work around 3 a.m. and stood watch for an hour, as required by company policy, then went for a break. A security guard noticed the flames at about 4:43 a.m. and called the fire department.

The blaze also destroyed the King Kong attraction, a feature of the Universal Studios Theme Park tram tour, and a warehouse that housed tens of thousands of copies of archived television shows and films. But Universal Studios President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Meyer said there were duplicates of everything and all the lost materials could be replaced.

The fire burned for more than 12 hours and required more than 400 firefighters to battle the flames. At the height of the fire, more than 18,000 gallons of water per minute were being poured into the flames, said Freeman. Firefighters were slowed by low water pressure, but Freeman said it seemed to have resulted from the overwhelming water demands of the blaze.

None of the 30 sound stages on the lot were damaged and the New York streetscape will be rebuilt, said studio spokeswoman Cindy Gardner.

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