Cable, not guards, at fault in Philadelphia zoo fire, officials say

March 14, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

PHILADELPHIA - The fire that left 23 primates dead of smoke inhalation at the Philadelphia Zoo in December was caused by an improperly installed heating cable in the roof of their quarters, not by questionable actions of guards that night, zoo officials said yesterday.

In presenting the results of two internal investigations one by zoo staff members, the other by zoo board members the officials said the reports agreed with the major findings of the Philadelphia Fire Department's investigation, announced last month, that the fire "was accidental in nature" and that the zoo's security and fire detection systems were working properly at the time.

The two guards on duty that night, Dec. 23, were dismissed in January. But at a news conference yesterday, Alexander Hoskins, the zoo president, emphasized that they were let go solely for not performing their duties that night.

"The guards are not being blamed for the fire," he said.

The blaze caused the worst known loss of animal life at a zoo in history and cast a pall over the city during the Christmas season. The primates that died included the zoo's entire family of six gorillas, all three of its orangutans, all four white-handed gibbons and 10 lemurs, some of them exceedingly rare.

Pub Date: 3/14/96

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