Three-Alarm Fire Tears Through Universal Studios Lot; MTV Movie Awards Go On As Planned

Sets and 'King Kong' attraction destroyed, but the Gibson Amphitheatre was not affected by early morning blaze.

UNIVERSAL CITY, California — A massive three-alarm fire tore through the Universal Studios back lot early Sunday morning (June 1), destroying several street facades, a tape library and the building that holds the popular "King Kong" exhibit. At press time, the blaze had been contained, according to CNN.

The Gibson Amphitheatre — the site of Sunday night's MTV Movie Awards — is also located on Universal Studios, but it was not affected by the flames, and a spokesperson for the network said Sunday morning that the show would go on as planned.

"The areas we are utilizing for our production were unaffected, and the 2008 MTV Movie Awards will go on as planned," the spokesperson said in a statement. "We're working closely with authorities to make sure everything operates smoothly."

According to Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman, the blaze started on the studio's New York street facade — where episodes of shows like "Seinfeld" and "Sex and the City" were shot — sometime around 4:45 a.m., and quickly engulfed several more street facades and the studio's so-called "King Kong building," a stop on Universal's back-lot tour, where a large mechanical ape bellows at tourists and the artificial smell of bananas fills the air. At press time, the cause of the blaze was undetermined, he said.

"The fire moved very fast," Freeman said. "So we responded accordingly to contain the situation."

More than 400 firefighters from Los Angeles City and County — plus reserves from nearby areas like Burbank — responded to the blaze, and helicopters dumped water from high above. Freeman also told reporters that three firefighters were treated for minor injuries, including heat exhaustion.

Ron Meyer, the president and CEO of Universal, said that while the fire did plenty of damage, the situation looked worse than it actually was. No sets currently in production were affected, and the video vault that went up in flames was simply used to store duplicate tapes of television shows.

"Nothing irreplaceable was lost," Meyer said. "Our main vault, which contains all our film negatives was not harmed. We were very lucky; it could've been much worse."

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge told CNN that the two-block-size area affected by the fire resembled a "disaster movie."

The Universal Studio lot was founded in 1915 on 230 acres of farmland. Sunday's fire was the seventh to strike the lot since 1932.

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[This story was originally published at 1:35 pm E.T. on 06.01.2008]