Fire menaces, but studios safe

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The flames of this story fanned out quickly enough to avoid any serious high drama in Hollywood -- though for a time it looked like an unintended "Backdraft" sequel might be in the works.

A brush fire Friday behind a big apartment complex on the Burbank side of the Hollywood Hills was contained by firefighters with little or no effect on operations at the three movie studios within shouting distance of the flames. Smoke billowed for hours throughout the afternoon just west of the famed Hollywood sign. Universal's theme park -- where one attraction is based on the Ron Howard movie "Backdraft" -- was relatively unaffected, and even its backlot studio tours went uninterrupted.

"The studio tours aren't affected, because the smoke is blowing the other way," Uni spokeswoman Cindy Gardner said.

At Warner Bros., a spokesman said execs were monitoring the situation in consultation with local authorities. But by 3 p.m., firefighters had beaten back the worst of the flames, and that lot also continued with business as usual.

"If anything, they've told us to ask everybody to hold tight to avoid congestion on the streets," Warners spokesman Scott Rowe said. "(But) no production has been affected."

Indeed, the fire just off Barham Boulevard in Burbank was located in uncomfortable proximity to the busy Cahuenga Pass and the 101 Freeway. But rush-hour inconvenience aside, the nearby Walt Disney Co. also reported little effect on operations other than an early start on the weekend for some employees. At about 3 p.m., a voluntary evacuation e-mail was sent out.

"We closed our vents, so the smoke didn't get in, and we told employees that they were free to go home," Disney spokeswoman Michelle Bergman said. "I don't know how many did or didn't, but they were free to go."

No productions were shut down because of the fire, Bergman added.

Two teenage boys from Illinois told police that they caused the fire. A police spokesman said they were released to their parents and that the case will be sent to county prosecutors today.

More than 200 firefighters battled the 150-acre fire on the ground and in the air.
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