December 15, 2018
Visitors were evacuated and animals moved as firefighters brought blaze under control

A fire at Chester Zoo has been brought under control after a successful evacuation of the attraction, with all animals accounted for and no casualties.
The zoo closed for the day after plumes of smoke billowed from the Monsoon Forest building – the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK – as emergency services, including fire engines and ambulances, attended the scene before midday on Saturday. One person was treated for smoke inhalation.
Staff swiftly moved animals away from the fire and evacuated visitors, with witnesses reporting that orangutans and gibbons were led into the outside part of their enclosure by staff.
The £40m project was completed in 2015, and has an inflatable roof and replicates the hot, humid conditions of south-east Asia. Firefighters were lifted above the severely damaged structure by cranes to battle the blaze which by 2pm appeared to be under control.
It houses animals including orangutans, gibbons, crocodiles, turtles and insects. The zoo overall is home to about 21,000 animals of 500 species.
Fifteen fire appliances were at the scene, some drafted in from other services across the region, while a mobile command centre was set up to direct the operation.
Witnesses said the fire had begun at around 11.30am and that strong winds had caused it to spread rapidly. “We were in the monsoon enclosure when it happened and were rushed out due to an electrical fire,” one said. “It spread very quickly. The staff ensured all the members of the public were safe.”
Frank Riding, an amateur photographer who was visiting the zoo said: “I was doing photography in the islands section when staff started acting anxiously and rushing to each other, pointing at the Monsoon Forest.
“It was only moments later that crowds were directed out and staff told us to quickly and calmly leave the islands. I took that as to leave the zoo, but some people wandered to other parts of the zoo. At this point, smoke was billowing out of the building being carried by the wind.”
Reports from the scene said that by 1.30pm the fire appeared to be under control. “There are fewer flames now and we’re all just hoping the animals and humans are OK,” said Rebecca Clough, 20, a medical student who lives opposite the zoo.
Chester zoo attracts about two million visitors a year, making it the UK’s most visited zoo outside London.
Chester fire and rescue service said: “The zoo has been evacuated and all animals are accounted for. There are no reports of any injuries at this time. Drivers are advised to avoid the area. There are currently 15 fire appliances in attendance at the scene.”
“We can confirm fire services are attending a fire at our Monsoon Forest habitat,” said Chester zoo in a tweet. “Visitors were evacuated. The zoo’s team worked with emergency services to bring the situation under control. We are assessing the area and will update with info as we have it. The zoo remains closed.”
A spokeswoman for North West ambulance service said it was called to the scene at 11.42am. “We had two rapid response vehicles and one ambulance on the scene, all of which cleared as there were no patients,” she said. “There is one patient with smoke inhalation. We’ve got an officer on the scene.”
Five animals, including an aardvark and four meerkats, died this time last year in a fire at London zoo that took 72 firefighters to tackle.
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