The timing of the fire Sunday night at WABC New York was actually fortuituous, says a longtime cameraman who was on the scene in New York. A skeleton crew was working over Memorial Day weekend, he says, and it being a weekend night, no studio audience was on hand for live programs, such as Regis & Kelly, located a few yards from the Eyewitness News set that caught fire. With a smaller headcount on hand, evacuating the building was relatively easy.
"Thank God it was a holiday weekend," said 27-year station veteran Lou Torrellas. "If the fire had happened with a crowd, you've got a problem."
The crew was moments from kicking off the 11 p.m. news when a small fire got big in a hurry, Torrellas says, the flames growing to 10-15 feet high in mere minutes. "I never imagined a fire in the studio before in all the years I've worked here," he says, "and I never realized a fire could get that big that fast."
There was one downside to having a small crew on hand: "Usually the fire wardens are working," Torrellas says. "We had to get the word out [about the fire] ourselves."