Universal Studios reopens after blaze razes historic sets

Universal Studios theme park reopened today after an inferno ripped through the back lot on the weekend, causing millions of dollars in damages and destroying some of the most famous sets in Hollywood.

The fire began around 4:30 am Sunday and tore through the back lot as approximately 400 firefighters, backed by water-bombing planes, struggled to overcome low water pressure and an overwhelmed sprinkler system. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said authorities would investigate the water problems to see if they reflect a larger shortfall in the area.

The blaze destroyed the courthouse square and damaged the clock tower that enabled time travel in Back to the Future, as well as two mock New York and New England streets used for movies such as Bruce Almighty, Spider-Man 2 and Transformers. In addition, the flames consumed the King Kong exhibit and the set from the hit television series Desperate Housewives.

Other reported casualties include an alley from The Sting and movie sets from other classics such as The War of the Worlds, Ben-Hur and Psycho.

Despite the enormity of the fire, studio head Ron Meyer said "nothing precious was lost." Even though the video library was damaged and some 50,000 tapes were burnt, film negatives and other priceless materials were stored safely in underground buildings several hundred yards from the fire, he said.

The same area was devastated in an arson fire in 1990, which caused roughly $50 million in damages.

The cause of the blaze has not yet been determined.

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