Dozens of animals have been killed in a huge blaze at a popular petting zoo.
Fire crews rushed to Maldon Promenade Petting Zoo in Essex at around 1.15am Monday morning, after a fire broke out in the attraction’s barn housing more than 70 species of animals.
The fire, which is believed to have been sparked by a faulty freezer, took hold quickly and spread across the entire barn in the Dengie Peninsula.
Although three fire crews managed to get the blaze under control within an hour, around 25 animals could not be saved.
The zoo said they included Jake the giant tortoise who was ‘always keeping us on our toes’, a trio of retired meerkats, ‘sun queen diva’ Hugo the armadillo, Sirius and Severus the skunks, and the ‘cheeky and beautiful’ Raz the ecalectus parrot.
The animals that made it out alive have been moved to a safe location.
When crews first arrived at the scene they found the barn completely alight and a later investigation into the cause of the fire found that it started accidentally due to an electrical fault.
Staff today said they take ‘every precaution’ to prevent fires, as they paid an emotional tribute to the ‘amazing characters’ that have been lost who they said they will miss dearly.
A statement on the zoo’s Facebook page this morning read: ‘We will never forget the beautiful animals that we have lost in such tragic circumstances, some of the little guys kept at our private farm were retired, resting or previous unwanted pets that we tried so hard to care for.
‘We take every precaution to prevent fire/accidents happening, our appliances are regularly pat tested, we have certified electrician on hand for any problems, regularly have health & safety audits from our own but also external consultants, fire risk assessment regularly carried out, we also received guidance from the fire service two years ago to try & prevent accidental fire.
‘With all this said we still couldn’t prevent an electrical freezer fire but we will do all we can to learn from what has occurred & heart felt apology to our beautiful animals lost, staff, family & of course customers who have all felt this loss.’
A spokesperson at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘On arrival, crews reported that a barn measuring 20 metres by 30 metres was 100% alight.
‘Crews worked to extinguish the fire in sections by 12.15pm.
‘Sadly, a number of animals died at the incident.
‘An investigation into the cause of the fire found that it started accidentally due to an electrical fault.’
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the zoo recover from the tragedy and continue to care for its remaining animals.
The page read: ‘Not only have animals lives been lost but a wonderful business that rescues animals has been dramatically affected.
‘Please give what you can to help them continue great work that that we’re doing.’
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