You hear the official line about the fire on Universal? Turns out that some workers were using a blowtorch to set some shingles to the roof of a movie set building. They finished up, watched it for an hour, and then went for a break. Half an hour later, a guard reported the thing blazing. A lot of people think that the explanation’s silly- how could there be fire if it was fine for an hour? But it can happen that way.
See, I used to be a roofer. It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve had in my life, and put me in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I also got so dark that people would automatically assume I was hispanic and come up to me speaking Spanish regularly. Three things I learned from my experience-
1. Roofers are some of the toughest motherfuckers alive. No knowledgeable person would mess with a roofer. You’re talking about a guy who can throw a 100 pound roll of tar on his shoulder and climb a two story ladder.
2. There’s nothing more fun than peeing off of a roof. Something about the delay in your stream hitting the ground that makes it so enjoyable.
3. There is a ton of danger and fire up there.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the fire could have happened in that Universal set in the way they said. One of my first weeks on the job I was stuck alone with a friend of mine that had gotten me the job. We finished flashing a hatch, using a propane torch to set the tar sheet in place, and we broke for lunch. We sat eating in the shade for a good half hour all of sudden my friend says “Is that smoke?” and we run over.
Sure enough, it is, and it’s pouring out of the hatch. There was no fire but the material in the hatch had started smouldering. We start trying to put it out by throwing any liquid we could find at it (the extinguisher didn’t work! Yay for non-union jobs!) Most roofs under construction are littered with plastic and glass bottles of all sorts from the men drinking all the time to not pass out. We threw half full sodas, gatorades, and even a bottle that my friend was convinced was full of piss after getting some on himself (it was yellow and frothy), ripping the damn thing out with a crowbar and throwing it all in before I notice a wheelbarrel full of water from rain and dump the whole load in. The smoke finally stopped.
That was a pretty scary day… and the rest of the time I worked there I saw some other creepy stuff (to say nothing of that time that I dropped a propane tank from the ladder and almost killed all of us…) that definitely shows how damn easy it is for an accident to happen, and why the story at Universal is completely believable.
Still, nothing compares to the story one of my coworkers had. He used to do side jobs (as do most roofers for extra cash) and was working on some lady’s house. He was going to be using the propane torch near a duct on the roof, so he asked her if it was ever opened. She said it didn’t. He was finishing up the job when the lady went to go to the bank to get his check, when he got to the duct with the fire, wouldn’t you know what happened? It opened up and the fire shot down into the house.
He always told us that the scariest thing was that you wouldn’t believe how fast it burned to the ground. She got back later with his check, after the fire department. Don’t think the poor guy received it.
So yeah, to reiterate- fires on the roof are scary.
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