Emergency!…Universal Studio’s Style

Live Your Lunchpale!”

Man down in Hill Valley” …Put on your safety gear for what’s ahead…

Psycho House used in Emergency! (1972) John and Roy must be checking up on “Mother“!

Mother’s alive!

What’s Grandpa up to now?”The Munster Home front yard.

Munster House opposite…

Thanks- Squad 51″

The Garage from the Leave it to Beaver house is on fire.

Entering the Garage from the Leave it to Beaver home.

Another set on fire…Terry’s home from Desperate Housewives..

Terry’s home in Desperate Housewives…Smoke out upstairs windows-controlled fire lower story front window for Emergency... This in studio terms is a simple quick turnover.

Terry’s home today from Desperate Housewives…

Eva Longoria home from Desperate Housewives, is now on fire! across from Engine 51.

Don’t forget to turn off the stove Eva” says Carlos.

House of Seven Gables in an episode of Emergency in the 70’s.

Original- Mockingbird Lane. You can see one of Seven Gables on the house across the street.

Engine speeds to another Emergency…as they pass Jaws Lake

Jaws Lake-reverse angle. Original name-Singapore Lake.

Same road in the 70’s leading from Old Mexico to 6 Points.

This road takes you into Old Mexico and the Flash Flood animation.

This waterfall no longer exists-Emergency Squad 51 is responding to a stagecoach accident.


We can get him out now!”

Upper pond -Falls Lake today

This warehouse is located in Hill Valley ,or Mayfield if you prefer-The Courthouse faces this section. The other side of this building is Brownstone Street, just keep going through the door the Fire Department is standing in.

Universal Studios’ New York Street in Emergency! 

LACoFD Fire Station 127 in Carson stood as the fictitious Station 51 in this series.

‘Put him out!” A fire stunt on this same set almost- 50 years later!

Life back to normal. Trams pass by this house daily.

Original Colonial Street, lower lot. Neighbors include –The Munsters, The Cleavers, and Marcus Welby.

Costumes off- A summer day on Colonial Street. Wardrobe/Make-up are hard to bear on hot summer days. Air Conditioning units often get added to cool off stars and prevent make-up melting. I would get these calls and if it effects production-it’s considered an… Emergency!

Our original New York Street. Lighting towers on wheels get moved around the backlot (right) in photo.

A real- Emergency. New York Street up in flames. Engine Company 51 First Responder.

Careful where you park!”

There’s Fires everywhere around here”...C.S.I

Jaws Lake in- Emergency. This area is not yet the Jaws set, technically. Emergency proceeded Spielberg’s shark. No dock built yet for trams.

Jaws Dock- is also Cabot Cove in Murder She Wrote.

Singapore Lake before it became Jaws Lake.

Jaws Lake from our wilderness area. “To Kill a Mockingbird” home is the structure right of the hotel…Elm Street. In the distance is a castle-The Tower of London.

Here comes help”

A saloon now sits in center of 6 Points. Built for “Wild Bill” starring Jeff Bridges.

This studio is one accident after another… let’s get underneath this unstable load… good idea”

Even the Cleaver House has hadEmergencies

Old upper Falls Lake-this is the part of the Universal Backlot that you could actually get lost on the backroads. Our version of -Topanga Canyon.

Nice view of this area when this series was filmed. The house at the top of the Universal Hillside belonged to…Tom Mix. He had tires on his car personalized with T.M, so on dirt roads T.M was indented. His horse shoes probably did the same. Cowboy ego…

Upper Falls Lake today (rebuilt) -this was where Emergency filmed the stagecoach accident.

A Hawk- enjoying the afternoon with the pond to itself. Lower Falls Lake.

Modern Falls Lakereconstructed early 80’s. You can see a rim holding back water in upper falls”bottom right in photo.” Lower falls lake is in front of Blue Sky Backdrop with it’s basin drained. To build sets, lake gets drained, then filled when ready to shoot. It takes a couple days to refill lake. The Plumbing Department is in charge of basin. The Plane Emergency is leftover from War of Worlds set.

My dog Thor resting after an action packed Emergency Day on the Universal Backlot, up at Falls Lake.

Building 3384-Fire Station 51. Centrally located on the Universal Lot. Center of map.

Tacoma Fire Department’s Donald LeRoy Norden. 1947. ‘My Dad” Needless to say, this was pops favorite show

Don’t let them know how much money we make-pretending!” John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe) in a series produced by non-other than Jack Webb.

I visited my dads old Firehouse in Tacoma last summer.

Here, Engine 51 rolls on it’s last assignment ever, on an episode of CHiP’s titled “Hot Wheels”

End of Watch -Engine 51…Last ever Emergency response was on CHiP’s-1979. This fiery freeway pile-up

A big thanks to the Tacoma Fire Department for their hospitality. Don Jr. in green T-shirt. What a great experience walking in my dads footprints. The T.V Series of the same name has also visited here.

Our fireboat is P.T 73″

This is what happens when your show get canceled-you no longer get a slip, you’re dry docked.

This fireboat assisted the Tacoma Fire Department before being retired.It was a tiny Battleship.

A big hand for our first responders, Air, Land and Sea.

The Alarm Sounds…

The history involving this T.V Series “Emergency” will live on forever at Universal. That’s partially because that’s the number of our Fire Squad stationed on our movie lot. Inside is an alter of photos from the T.V Series it was named after. Ironically, it stands a sling shot away from what use to be- the Burning House animation from the old tram tour. This is a very active fire department, it backs up film production when explosives are being used.

What was a T.V series is now a full blown Fire Department. It has seen more than its share of backlot fires, Universal leads the way in backlot blazes. It has a long history, partially because the backlot is enormous and highly flammable.

I have seen three- New York Streets, the original, then it’s replacement, burned down entirely. When I drove trams, we would pass firemen polishing their equipment, while talking to guests sitting on board. They have the job all our guests want… Universal FireFighter. You will see action, both planned and unplanned. Most our guests probably remember this series from 50 years ago, and it will live on in infamy.

In our first N.Y Street fire, Santa Ana winds quickly spread flames up into the rooftops before all hell broke loose. Even a swift response could not halt the flames jumping from building to building. The T.V series preplanned every fire and prepared each structure to handle what was to be filmed. Thick drywall, metal flashing, fire extinguishers and controlled gas manifolds line the interior of any burning set with a camera on it. Safety is all about preparation.

Starting in 1972, Jack Webb had 2 big hits-Adam-12, and Emergency. The initially salary for our actors was surprisingly low-$250 per episodeElectricians make more! In 1974 they got raises up to $1,250 per episode, still a low ball number. The badges worn were real and collected at the end of the day.

Rick Rosner, the main producer for the T.V Series “CHIP’S” utilized Squad 51 in three episodes. First, in the episode ‘Cry Wolf,” then in “MAIT Team.” Engine 51 responds to a horrific pile-up. One more crossover happened in season 3, episode “Hot Wheels”

CHIP’s began filming in 1977 at MGM. Emergency briefly went on hiatus at that time-only to return as “specials.”

All studios with backlots have a fire department on lot. Universal Captain Ron Perkins “retired” was in charge when I was involved there. Fire departments work hand in hand with studio facilities to safely coordinate massive spiraling sets with sensors for early smoke detection, this goes for both exterior and interior sets. They constantly patrol making sure no short cuts have taken place.

No department has more responsibility, without them we would have more disastrous fires take place. Let’s tip our cap to our first responders who are as important as they are legendary on this Universal Backlot.

If you enjoy special effects like I do- check out my YouTube Channel Phantomofthebacklots. Experience being abducted into a spacecraft if you dare…

Written and Lived by…Donnie Norden

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