Zoo animals die in fire near Cumberland

Blaze takes 4 hours to contain

up to 100 exotic creatures perish


As many as 100 exotic animals died in a fire that raged for hours early yesterday at the Tri-State Zoological Park near Cumberland, fire officials said.

Two alligators living indoors in water-filled tubs survived the blaze. Among the dead were turtles, parrots, iguanas, monkeys and a Burmese python.

A passer-by called 911 at 6:41 a.m. after seeing flames and smoke coming from the two-story building that housed the animals, said Beth Evans, deputy chief of the Baltimore Pike Volunteer Fire Department.

"It was a miracle that they found those alligators alive," Evans said. "It was pretty sad looking in [the burned building] with all the animals laying in there. We have animal resuscitation masks and we tried to resuscitate some of the animals ... but it was too late."

Zoo owner Robert Candy said 70 to 100 animals died as the fire heavily damaged the building, a 50-year-old converted house with numerous additions that served as a winter home for warm-weather creatures and also contained the zoo office. Another 50 to 60 animals, including lions and tigers, are kept outside and survived the fire, Candy said.

He said he hoped to rebuild: "It's hard to just take a dream and say forget it. You've got to move forward."

Dozens of fire companies descended on the scene, fighting the blaze in shifts for more than four hours to contain it, Evans said.

"The fire was so intense," Evans said. "The flames started going through the roof ... so we started taking our firefighters out."

One firefighter was treated at Cumberland General Hospital for smoke inhalation and released, Evans said.

Allen Gosnell, the deputy chief state fire marshal, said his office is investigating the cause of the fire. He said that at this point, authorities don't believe it was set.

"There is a lot of debris and a lot of damage, and it just takes some time to dig down to the clues to figure out what happened," Gosnell said.

The zoo was closed at the time of the fire for its winter recess but was set to reopen soon for the spring, he said.

"There are four employees and various volunteers who were very excited about opening up for the new season, but of course that's not going to happen now," Gosnell said.

Rick Wolford, a firefighter with the Bowling Green Volunteer Fire Department and a dispatcher at the Allegany County Emergency Management center, said there was "heavy, heavy smoke," encompassing the building.

"Expectedly, the owners and the employees of the zoo were obviously shaken," Wolford said. "There's shock. They were very concerned with the animals they could save."

Candy said he and his wife, Donna, established the 16-acre zoo three years ago. Many of the lizards, turtles, parrots, macaws and monkeys that died had been abandoned, abused or used for research, Candy said.

"Our goal is to give all the animals a good home," he said.


The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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