Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Universal Studios Backlot Fire -- Where's Gulliver When You Need Him?

"Low water pressure hampers fight against Universal Studios fire," reports the Los Angeles Times --

Low water pressure and an overwhelmed sprinkler system hampered the fight against a fast-moving fire that tore through two city blocks at the Universal Studios Hollywood back lot Sunday, destroying the "King Kong" tour and burning the sets for such blockbuster movies as "Back to the Future" and "Bruce Almighty."


"The water came out of hoses anemically," Yaroslavsky said. "The water-pressure issue is going to be the postmortem issue of this fire.

"Some firefighters on the scene could get only a 10-foot spray from park hydrants and were unable to reach the vaulting flames.


The flames churned through the open-air wood and plastic construction and to the adjacent sets, incinerating the 30-foot animatronic King Kong and damaging Courthouse Square, which played a prominent role in "Back to the Future," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Inherit the Wind."

Of course, this calls to mind Jonathon Swift's creation, the most iconic literary firefighter, none other than Gulliver. Consider this passage from Book I of Gulliver's Travels:

I heard the word BURGLUM repeated incessantly: several of the emperor's court, making their way through the crowd, entreated me to come immediately to the palace, where her imperial majesty's apartment was on fire, by the carelessness of a maid of honour, who fell asleep while she was reading a romance. I got up in an instant; and orders being given to clear the way before me, and it being likewise a moonshine night, I made a shift to get to the palace without trampling on any of the people. I found they had already applied ladders to the walls of the apartment, and were well provided with buckets, but the water was at some distance. These buckets were about the size of large thimbles, and the poor people supplied me with them as fast as they could: but the flame was so violent that they did little good. ...

Adequate water pressure appeared to be a problem for the Lilliputians too. Swift continues:

I had, the evening before, drunk plentifully of a most delicious wine called GLIMIGRIM, (the Blefuscudians call it FLUNEC, but ours is esteemed the better sort,) which is very diuretic. By the luckiest chance in the world, I had not discharged myself of any part of it. The heat I had contracted by coming very near the flames, and by labouring to quench them, made the wine begin to operate by urine; which I voided in such a quantity, and applied so well to the proper places, that in three minutes the fire was wholly extinguished, and the rest of that noble pile, which had cost so many ages in erecting, preserved from destruction.

I bring this up only because, coincidentally, the 1939 animated adaptation of Gulliver's Travels has just been digitally remastered for DVD release by "Audio Galaxy, a production company based in the Universal Studios Complex in Orlando, Fla."

Where's Gulliver when you need him, eh?

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