California fire season is in its prime. At 4:45 A.M., a fire broke out on the Universal Studios backlot where they filmed classics such as Psycho and Back to the Future. As of 11 A.M., the backlot has lost Courthouse Square (Back to the Future), New York Street, New England Street, the set of Ghost Whisperer, the King Kong attraction, and the film vault.
Being fortunate enough to live only a half-hour away from Universal, I decided to take my Mustang on a little jaunt to the studios. The fire looked horrible from the freeway, like a big, black cloud of death. "This is bad," I whispered to my car. The air quality was really bad, too; I could smell the smoke from inside my car. Surprisingly, the air quality was not too bad when I got out of my car. According to other journalists, it smelled like burnt plastic earlier this morning. Gross.
The Universal people were not very welcoming. I paid 12 dollars for my ticket and entered the park, only to find security kicking press out. When I told them I would sit in Citywalk (a bunch of shops outside of the park) and stare at the fire, they insisted I leave the park or they'd call security. A guard told me he already threw out five other press people. He then told me Citywalk was closed and the park opened at noon. He was clearly sending mixed signals considering the fact that the Universal parking lot was packed with little kids. None of them were thrown out.
But fear not. I managed to still find the CNN, ABC, FOX, and NBC trucks lined up talking to firemen and the head producer of Universal, Ron Myers. They confirmed the following facts:
- There are 400 firefighters working very hard to put the fire out.
- James Barns, a firefighter, told me, "It's going to be out in a couple hours. The fire came in at 4:45 A.M. The second alarm rang at 5:15 A.M. There are five other agencies working with us."
- One journalist said the fire was so hot, it burned his arm.
- The cause of the fire is unknown. Barns has no idea how it started, but there are rumors that some high Universal people think it may have been a bomb and some people report mushroom clouds. However, it should be stressed that this is a rumor and cannot be confirmed or denied at the current time.
- Ron Myers, pictured with here with an ABC reporter, says that nothing irreplaceble burned down and all of the movies can be replicated.
- The cost of damage is unknown.
- Park, studios, and tour are expected to be open tomorrow.
Really, Universal Studios isn't in as much chaos as expected. It's pretty mellow, considering there's a fire going on. More information should be available soon, but for now, that's the deal.