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On July 9, 1937, fire gutted a film storage facility (pictured) in Little Ferry, New Jersey, rented by the American studio 20th Century-Fox. Flammable nitrate film had previously contributed to several high-profile fires in film industry laboratories, studios, and vaults, although the precise causes were often unknown. In Little Ferry, gases produced by decaying film, subjected to high temperatures and inadequate ventilation, spontaneously combusted. The fire caused one death and two injuries, and destroyed all of the archived film in the vaults, resulting in the complete loss of most of the silent films produced by the Fox Film Corporation before 1932. Also destroyed were negatives from Educational Pictures and films of several other studios. The fire brought attention to the potential for decaying nitrate film to spontaneously ignite, and to the need for fire safety in film preservation. Production and use of nitrate film were gradually phased out in favor of safer alternatives. (Full article...)
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