Due to the structural damage, fire investigators were unable to determine the cause of Thursday’s blaze, which prompted a massive effort to evacuate amphibians and reptiles.
Six small turtles at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle are believed to be dead after a fire Thursday in the building where they were hibernating for winter, zoo staff said Friday. The cause of the blaze remains unknown.
According to the zoo, the turtles were in the basement of The Night Exhibit, which formerly housed nocturnal animals, when the fire started around 3:15 p.m. No other animals are known to be hurt. Two firefighters were temporarily hospitalized for minor injuries. Zoo staff believe the turtles died but have been unable to get inside the building to confirm.
Meanwhile, due to the structural damage, investigators were unable to determine the fire’s cause, Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Alice Kim said in a news release Friday. The damage estimate is $1.5 million.
The two black-breasted leaf turtles and four Indochinese box turtles were in a special room to hibernate for the winter, the zoo said in a blog post. Early indications show the fire started in the basement, zoo staff said.
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“Any loss of life is hard, but this loss is especially heartbreaking given the tireless work of our staff to evacuate all of the animals they could reach,” the zoo said in the blog post.
The black-breasted leaf turtles, a male and a female, were 26 years old, according to zoo spokeswoman Gigi Allianic. Of the four Indochinese box turtles, two males were 16 years old; one male was 4 years old and the youngest, of undetermined sex, was 2 years old.
Firefighters and zoo staff spent hours evacuating tortoises, lizards, amphibians and snakes after smoke from the fire spread to the nearby Day Exhibit, which houses about 200 amphibians and reptiles.
“The keepers entered the building and hooked and bagged snakes by headlamp. They waded into pools to rescue turtles and crocodiles,” the post says. Staff then took the animals in warm vehicles to eight locations around the zoo. As of Friday morning, the post says they were “all doing well.”
Meanwhile, during the evacuation, firefighters battled the fire up to the Night Exhibit’s attic, where they contained the blaze around 4:30 p.m., Kim said in the news release. After that, crews monitored hot spots and stayed at the zoo overnight.
One firefighter suffered minor burns and a second suffered an injury possibly from an electrical shock during the fire. Medics took them to Harborview Medical Center, where they have since been released, the release says.
The Night Exhibit of nocturnal animals closed in 2010 due to financial problems. The zoo has since found funding to reopen the exhibit in 2018.