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California Briefing / UNIVERSAL CITY

Flammability of film sets blamed

June 14, 2008|Jia-Rui Chong

The ferocity of the Universal Studios blaze earlier this month stemmed mostly from the high flammability of the movie lot's sets and not from the flow of water to hoses and other firefighting equipment, according to a review by the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the county Department of Public Works.

"The problem was related to the fuel," county Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said at a news conference Friday.

The set facades were built almost entirely of wood and plastic, and therefore were 95% combustible, Freeman said.

Initially, authorities worried that a lack of water pressure may have exacerbated the fast-moving fire June 1, but Freeman said there was sufficient water flow to meet demand.

Also, water sprinklers that were added to the facades after a 1990 fire had failed in this month's blaze, he said.

County officials Friday recommended that the studio build sets out of more fire-resistant materials such as steel and concrete. They also recommended that the sprinkler system be improved and that the sets be built further apart.

The construction of movie facades is unregulated, but the Fire Department is reviewing fire and building codes to see if they should be revised.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that any future revisions should be written into law.

"It wouldn't be at anybody's discretion whether to comply," he said.

-- Jia-Rui Chong

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