Low water pressure hampered efforts today to fight a fire that raged through the Universal Studios backlot in Universal City. The fire ended up destroying a soundstage and several sets, including the Courthouse Square seen in "Back to the Future" and the New York streetscape from the 1987 "Dragnet" film and "Bruce Almighty," as well as structures used in the theme park's King Kong attraction.
As the equivalent of two city blocks burned, and firefighters were still knocking down flames seven hours after the blaze began, a mushroom-like cloud of smoke drifted over surrounding neighborhoods, raising some health concerns. Nevertheless, the studio theme park was scheduled to reopen at 1pm.
At least 300 firefighters battled the blaze, including with water-dropping helicopters. The fire, which started at about 4:30 am, was expected to burn into the afternoon, although it was contained. Four firefighters suffered minor injuries.
The flames tore through a cavernous, two-story video vault containing video and copies of film, some dating to the 1920s. At one point, firefighters hastily removed canisters from the building by hand, but Universal officials said that the archives were copies and no original works had been lost.
The MTV Movie Awards is scheduled to be broadcast live today from the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal, with such stars as Will Smith, Robert Downey Jr. and Edward Norton set to attend.