Did you know that there were eight separate fires at Universal Studios Hollywood over the years? One of the most notable fires was in 2008, which nearly destroyed the entire backlot. There were seven more fires that took place before then. Here's a brief history of all eight fires that happened at Universal Studios Hollywood.


Only twenty short years after Carl Laemmle opened Universal Studios, a brush fire turned into a disaster for the backlot. Firefighters were working to put out the nearby brush fire when a few burning embers blew over to the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot. It may sound like it was no big deal, but it destroyed four entire movie sets, which caused around $100,000 in damage; adjusted for inflation, that's around $2 million. A vast sum of money, especially when factoring in that this was during the start of the Great Depression.


Seventeen years later Universal Studios would be hit with another nearby bushfire, which bled into the backlot once again. This time the fire only ruined one building and damaged two others.


The third fire in the Universal Studios backlot occurred not even a decade after the second. The 1957 Fire was different from the first two, as it was not an ill-fated act of nature that caused the destruction of the backlot. This time, the fire was believed to be started intentionally by an arsonist. This fire destroyed the entirety of the famous New York Street set used in many productions at the time. The crime caused around $500,000 in damages, which is equivalent to around $5 million today.


It is unclear how this fire started exactly. It demolished Denver Street, Laramie Street, and the Little Europe area of the studio, as well as part of Spartacus Square.


Twenty years later, another arsonist allegedly set fire to the backlot once again. This time, the remainder of Spartacus Square was completely burned down.


After recovering from the last arson attack, Universal Studios was once again deliberately targeted, giving them only three years to recuperate. The New York Street set was burned down for the second time, along with the Ben Hur set. Courthouse Square was also partially destroyed, which happened to be the same courthouse that was used as the famous "Clock Tower" in the Back to the Future trilogy. It's worth noting that the trilogy was still being released during the time of the attack.


Only seven years later, the Courthouse caught fire again, but fortunately, it only caused minimal damage.


In 2008. Universal Studios Hollywood is an established theme park, as well as a functioning film studio that has operated for 96 years. The backlot has survived almost an entire century, despite seven fires. Things were going well until June 1, 2008. While applying asphalt shingles to a movie set facade, an employee caused a fire by using a blowtorch.

This fire was the largest and most destructive of them all. It was a three-alarm fire, which means that three fire truck units had to be used to keep the fire contained and eventually put it out. If that does not sound like a big deal to you, then you should also know that also meant over 516 firefighters from multiple fire departments rushed to the scene, as well as two helicopters that spread water throughout the area to put the fire out. Steven Spielberg–creative consultant, director, producer, and a big fan of Universal Studios–heard about the fires and rushed to watch it burn with tears in his eyes.

Thankfully, the fire was put out after twelve hours, but not without causing some harm. Luckily, nobody ever lost their lives in any of the Universal Studios Hollywood fires, including this one. However, fourteen firefighters and three police officers were injured. Brownstone Street, New York Street, New England Street, the King Kong attraction, and some of Courthouse Square were all completely gone. Not to mention the duplicate Universal Video library was lost as well. All of these things could be replaced, but not without cost. Still, Universal Studios representatives expressed a new plan to rebuild. It was called the “Phoenix Project.” Why? We will talk about that next time.