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Universal Studio Fire Caused by Roofer's Blowtorch

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The Associated Press reports that the massive blaze that destroyed part of the back lot at Universal Studios was accidentally ignited by workers using a blowtorch on the roof of a movie set building facade.

An investigation revealed that a Universal Studios work crew had been using the blowtorch early Sunday to heat asphalt shingles to apply to the facade. They finished around 3 a.m. and followed policy of standing watch for one hour. Seeing no signs of fire, the crew then left for a break. A security guard in the vicinity spotted the fire 43 minutes later and reported it to the fire department.

The fire started on a streetscape featuring New York brownstone facades at the 400-acre property. It then destroyed a King Kong attraction, the courthouse square from “Back to the Future” and a streetscape featured in “Spider-Man 2″ and “Transformers.” It also gutted a building housing 40,000 to 50,000 videos. Fortunately there were duplicates of everything.

Low water pressure forced firefighters to tap lakes and ponds at Universal, which is a working studio as well as a theme park. The Universal lot operates and maintains its own water system, which is up to current county code. The blaze burned for more than 12 hours but was contained to the back lot.

NRCA’s Certified Roofing Torch Applicator Program

The NRCA offers a Certified Roofing Torch Applicator (CERTA) program designed to address the concerns of building owners, roofing contractors, the insurance industry, fire and code authorities, roofing material manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and fuel suppliers.

This program provides the latest best practices and new industry requirements for the safe use of roofing torches. According to the NRCA, the number of serious roofing torch-related fire incidents has decreased significantly since 2004 when the new CERTA program was implemented.

The CERTA safety practices for roofing torch use is available for download in PDF format. Click here to download.

More information is available at the NRCA’s CERTA webpage.

  1. What a shame. Blow torch my butt – negligence.

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