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Fire at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure; Ripsaw Falls evacuated

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Published: January 1, 2011 at 4:59 PM

This evening around 5:30pm a major fire broke out at Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls in the Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park. The Orlando Sentinel reported that there were no injuries and that the entire Toon Lagoon island area was evacuated.

Smoke billowed above the area and was visible from throughout Universal Orlando Resort. This comes just after the busiest week Islands of Adventure has seen since its debut year. More from the Sentinel.

Update from the comments: Universal Studios spokesman Tom Schroder said the attraction would be closed for several weeks while workers repair the fire damage and perform additional seasonal maintenance.

Also, here's a photo from Brian J. Smith:

Islands of Adventure fire

From Robert: This looks to me like it was taken from a backstage area. The fire clearly looks to be on the mountain itself. *Or maybe not, based on other views. Any other eyewitnesses out there?

Readers' Opinions

From 208.54.94.93 on January 1, 2011 at 5:24 PM
Hey all, it's Gareth. Am here now, waiting only Mythos reservation.
When I'm done I'll take a wander past and see what's going on. Very busy day at the part.

I did smell fire when I left home, about a mile away.
It smelt like an electrical fire.

Also saw a couple of tv camera vans on the way here.

From 166.204.6.193 on January 1, 2011 at 5:32 PM
Hopefully know one was hurt and this will result in the refurb that so many people say that ride needed.
From Hermione Potter on January 1, 2011 at 5:37 PM
So...what's the bet that Ripsaw goes down for "previously scheduled maintenance" like Rip Ride Rockit did? It may actually even be true because it usually closes in jan or feb for repainting while it's cold and slow but this is gonna be a PR nightmare for safety of their rides combined with Rockit.
From Domenik Jost on January 1, 2011 at 6:33 PM
Update: Thankfully no one was I injured.

And here is a picture by Brian Smith which you can make out flames on top of the Ripsaw Falls tower.

His sources also told him that a vendor truck next to the ride caught fire. A tree spread the fire to the top of the ride.

From 99.138.94.15 on January 1, 2011 at 6:37 PM
Time to for some new comments on this week's attraction evacuations. There will be some interesting stories now if you were evacuated from the 2 alarm fire. For every routine evacuation/in-show exit that goes smoothly, this is when the well trained staff and the careful emergency procedures become so important.

Great news nobody hurt and the investigation results will be interesting. We don't need more data for the accident database.

From Jeni K on January 1, 2011 at 7:11 PM
I was there tonight. Saw the smoke while driving down I4 to get to the park. I was able to take a quick picture from the exit ramp as my husband and I were arriving. At the time, we were worried it was Universal, but assumed it was probably somewhere behind it or I would've taken a better pic. The smoke was still billowing when we parked, and by the time we got into IOA around 6:30ish, the smoke was gone. They weren't letting anyone past the bridge into Marvel, and past Trike Encounter in JP while we were there, which wasn't very long. The whole park smelled like burned plastic. There were some angry people wanting to go through to Marvel, but for the most part everyone was calm and was just wondering what happened. Apparently most areas reopened shortly after we left.

My photo's on the Orlando Sentinel's slideshow - #12!

From 173.168.67.100 on January 1, 2011 at 7:17 PM
it was my faviorite ride i'm broken to pieces about it
From 96.233.21.7 on January 1, 2011 at 8:51 PM
If I recall correctly, there is a smoking section around the area. I saw where it said that a tree took the flames to the top of the mountain... what if someone didn't put out their cigarette all the way and the wood line caught fire.
From 68.205.193.158 on January 1, 2011 at 9:21 PM
I live about a mile away from Univeral and there is a strong smell of smoke outside. Had no idea why and now I know.
From Robert Niles on January 1, 2011 at 9:59 PM
Universal's owed huge credit for maintaining safety and getting everyone - visitors and employees - out without injury.

That said, I can't remember seeing a fire at an open theme park generate that amount of smoke before. I'm very interested in seeing exactly what material was burning there.

From 99.138.94.15 on January 2, 2011 at 9:54 AM
Summary of Orlando Area TV News Reports as viewed online:

WESH-2
Aerial Raw Video taken after dark shows large hole caused by fire in roof of building indicating serious damage.

WFTV-9
No direct video of fire. Guests report sounded like an explosion. Smell of burning rubber. 1 reports of panic by a guest on camera. Several visitors complained of smoke inhalation and were treated at the site.

WOFL-35
Reports fire started on the roof. Firefighters found a smoldering fire that spread rapidly. Both Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon closed (staff member on site as a regular guest).

WKMG-6
No Video coverage provided online. Similar print article to what has been provided by Orlando Sentinel. It does not look like the channel posts videos of stories...

Central Florida News 13
Raw interview by a guest in queue for ride indicates the initial announcement was technical difficulties and that the staff conducting the evacuation was nervous [So would I]. When asked what was going on, they said that could not tell but referred to the black smoke in the sky.

Orlando Sentinel
Has not yet updated their article tonight.

Comments
Overall that considering the conditions, the park handled the event very successfully with no significant injuries for a large 2 alarm fire involving 2 separate fire departments. The staff initiallly appears to have handled the event very successfully. Especially when considering this is coming out of the all time busiest week for IOA.

The park public relations team appeared to be responding well to the media and provided an appropriate level of information to media]

There are separate reports that the fire was started by a vehicle and spread to a tree then the structure or that the fire started on the roof. May just be individuals perspective as the first fire of the building was was on the roof.

Due to the hole in the roof, which was after dark and difficult to interpret, there is likely significant damage structurally and the interior. This is also indicated by other reports that the fire department had to fight the fire externally from a ladder truck initially. Ride is likely a total loss. Even if repairable at significant cost, the PR issues and the fact the ride needed some significant updating indicates probably better to tear it down. Premature to tell until good daytime video is available. Very premature.

From Anthony Murphy on January 1, 2011 at 11:15 PM
Wasn't there a fire at Dudley Do Right a few years ago? I could have sworn I saw something in the accident section.
From 82.9.115.58 on January 2, 2011 at 11:41 AM
This video shows the fire was NOT on the mountain, which should be good news in the sense that the show building would not have got any strucutral damage. I think this video proves that although Ripsaw Falls will be out of action until maybe June, at least it won't need to be torn down and gone forever:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEgsw84x5JU

From Gareth H on January 2, 2011 at 11:49 AM
Back again.

All of the lights were off on the ride when I passed it at 9pm last night, including the lights on the bridge.
They had flood lights on to assist guests with seeing as it was very dark.

There was still a strong smell of smoke.

There were maintenance staff under the bridge where the log drops, before coming back up again.

Maintenance were using flashlights.

The ride staff (Mounties) were placed all around the ride entrance, and on the bridge, to answer questions, as well as a manager and some security staff.

There were also plenty of news crews around the entrances to the resort for the live broadcasts at 10pm and 11pm.

Other than that, I really couldn't see too much.

From Gareth H on January 2, 2011 at 12:54 PM
UPDATE

Universal Studios spokesman Tom Schroder said the attraction would be closed for several weeks while workers repair the fire damage and perform additional seasonal maintenance.

From Carrie Hood on January 2, 2011 at 7:46 PM
Just looking at the smoke pouring from it I'd guess it was treated lumber, insulation and plastic to get smoke that dark. I wonder if the results will ever be released to the public, it's hard to say with theme parks they could keep it quiet.

I can't say I'm surprised, the last few years I've been very disappointed with USO outward appearance. The rides all need work from the very looks of them and that doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the maintenance of an attraction.

From Tiffany Nevin on January 3, 2011 at 1:32 AM
I was there last night - I was on The Flying Hippogryph when it started, actually. We were climbing that initial hill on the ride when myself and a few other adults looked up and pretty much went, "Holy crap, Hogwarts is on fire."

Because that's what it totally looked like. (I was able to snap a quick photo once I was back on the ground.) I remember a few people screaming, but I don't know if that's from Dueling DragonsDragon Challenge or what. Since, at the time, I thought Forbidden Journey had the problem, I probably misattributed the screaming.

Naturally, I was worried, so I started heading toward the park exit, and I noticed that park employees (does Universal say "cast member"? I don't know) were telling people, very loudly, not to stand on the bridges and just to get out of the way, basically. This was probably during the evacuation portion.

I didn't find out what actually happened until I was on the way home a couple of hours later. Pretty glad I chose not to ride Ripsaw that day - I'd considered it, then gone with Forbidden Journey (for a second and third time), instead.

I'm still coughing, actually. That smoke was AWFUL.

From 208.54.85.60 on January 3, 2011 at 1:09 PM
Not one of you guys have any clue what u are talking about...Treated lumber???? What???? That entire ride is made of steel dry-vit and fiberglass... Pressure treated lumber hahhaha. No tree caught fire no one was hurt. Let's all complian cuz we smelled smoke waaaaaaa.... I'm still coughing. Accidents happen its not Universal fault at all. Fires happen atleast there not killing there employees and guests like Disney does.
From Mike Gallagher on January 3, 2011 at 1:13 PM
Snidely Whiplash finally let the bomb explode?
From Carrie Hood on January 3, 2011 at 2:11 PM
Have you ever seen treated lumber burn? Looks the same way as do both insulation and plastics. So unless you built the place I highly doubt you know what's in it because I sure don't. Although I'd like to see a steal building in Orlando without some kind of insulation and just watch the heat pour from it. Apparently you miss the part where I said "I'd guess it's.." way to jump down someone's throat person with the T-Mobile IP.
From 184.255.179.32 on January 3, 2011 at 5:27 PM
it's all FRP over a steel structure. That's why the smoke was black. How do I know? I was there while it was being built.

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