Where there's smoke, there's roofing?

Yes, the much-publicized June 1 fire at Universal Studios, Universal City, Calif., was a result of roofing work. The initial reports of the fire caused more than a few of us at NRCA to catch our breath. But we exhaled when we learned the fire was not caused by a roofing contractor's crew.

The workers responsible for the blaze were employees of Universal Studios, not a roofing contracting company. According to what the media widely reported, the workers had been using a blowtorch to heat asphalt shingles (though, as we know, they probably were heating a polymer-modified bitumen membrane).

Work on the roof finished at 3 a.m., and the workers left for a break at 4 a.m. after standing watch for one hour. A security guard reported the fire at 4:43 a.m. The fire was not extinguished until 10 p.m.

The fire, which engulfed 3 1/2 acres of the 391-acre studio lot and its adjacent theme park, clearly illustrates the importance of having properly trained roofing workers perform roofing work involving torches. Responding to insurance losses caused by torched roofing applications, NRCA has offered the NRCA/MRCA Certified Roofing Torch Applicator program for roofing workers since 2004. Losses in the roofing industry caused by torch fires have decreased since then.