University theater severely damaged in Saturday fire; more than 100 firefighters battle blaze that destroys equipment and historic props

Oct 25, 2015 | 3 comments

The rector of the University of Cuenca says that it will take at least three months to repair fire damage to the Carlos Cueva Tamariz Theater, considered Cuenca’s top performing arts venue.

Smoke billows from the top of the theater production tower.

Fire could be seen from the top of the theater production tower Saturday afternoon. Photo credit: El Mercurio

Firefighters responded to the blaze at about 3:30 Saturday afternoon that was apparently caused by an electrical short.

“It is too early to calculate the loses and what will be needed for repairs,” said Rector Fabian Carrasco. “We have lost our entire sound and lighting as well as other stage controls, rigging and curtains.” He said that the fire did not spread to the auditorium although that area suffered extensive smoke damage.

“We are devastated by what has happened and have lost a great deal of valuable property, some of it with historic value,” Carrasco said.

According to theater director Oswaldo Ramirez, the fire started in an enclosed area on the fourth level of the theater, and was not detected until smoke escaped from around the doorways and through the ceiling. “It had been burning for awhile in a room without an alarm,” he said.

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The theater, which is used several times a week, hosted the Miss Cuenca competition on Friday night and was scheduled for a number of major events during the Cuenca independence holidays that begin later this week. It was slated to be the main venue for next month’s eight-day film festival.

“At this point, all events in the theater are cancelled until further notice,” Carrasco said.

Although early indications were that there was no structural damage to the theater that first opened in 1964, a full analysis will be conducted early this week. “There are interior rooms destroyed in the production tower and very bad smoke damage throughout the structure,” said Paul Barzallo, director of the city historic areas commission. “We have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of electronic equipment, which will need to be replaced,” he added.

 

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