Workers started Universal fire

Blowtorch sparked accidental blaze

Fire officials said Monday that Sunday's backlot inferno at Universal was accidentally started by workers using a blowtorch to heat asphalt shingles being applied to a structure.

The accident sparked a fire that tore through the Universal backlot and faux cityscape Sunday. Also Monday, Uni officials said firefighters had managed to save the courthouse facade on its Courthouse Square movie set.

The fire destroyed a King Kong attraction on the studio's backlot tram tour, a much-used New York Street cityscape and a video vault containing digital copies of more than 40,000 film and TV titles -- which fortunately also were stored elsewhere on film negatives and masters. Although much of Courthouse Square was destroyed, once the fire abated it appeared the much-filmed courthouse itself had been largely spared, officials said.

The square and other fire-ravaged movie sets have been used in dozens of films including "Back to the Future" and "Transformers."

Operations resumed Monday on the studio lot and the nearby Universal Studios Hollywood theme park and CityWalk outdoor mall, though odors from the fire hung thick in the air in areas adjacent to the three acres ravaged by flames.

"While we are still taking the appropriate time to assess damages -- which could take several days -- and working with county officials to determine cause, it is business as usual," a Uni spokeswoman said.

Even the backlot tram tour resumed operations by Monday morning, she noted. "Other than the King Kong attraction, no rides and attractions have been affected nor were the theaters, restaurants, clubs and shops at CityWalk impacted," the spokeswoman added.

Meanwhile, Uni officials vowed to restore all fire-damaged areas.

"We plan to rebuild and replace everything that was lost," the Uni spokeswoman said. "Will we replace the King Kong attraction? I don't know, because it was a 20-year-old exhibit. But we will create some guest experience in its place."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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