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Fire at the Character Shop Damages Puppet Company

August 24, 2000

CANOGA PARK — The building occupied by the company that makes the fugitive chickens in Foster Farms advertisements and the chorus of frogs in Budweiser commercials was gutted by fire that raged for more than an hour Wednesday morning.

More than 80 firefighters battled the 7:45 a.m. blaze, which was fueled by chemicals in the building in the 9300 block of Owensmouth Avenue.

"There was someone inside using a cutting torch and we are looking to see whether that caused the fire," fire Capt. Steve Ruda said.

The animatronics company, The Character Shop, makes robotic puppets that have been featured in movies and television commercials.

The challenge for firefighters was twofold: limiting the blaze to the three units occupied by the Character Shop and protecting people outside from possible toxic fumes. Ruda said the production facility contained acetone and resins that could cause respiratory problems.

Two firefighters were treated at hospitals for smoke inhalation.

Other tenants of the Sunnyglen Industrial Park were evacuated as smoke and flames shot 20 to 30 feet in the air.

The roof of the building was partially caved in, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Bob Collis said. He estimated structural damage at $150,000 and contents loss at about $400,000.

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