Chester Zoo fire 'caused by electrical fault'

A fire at Chester Zoo was caused by an electrical fault, an investigation has found.

Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 3:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th December 2018, 4:23 pm
Firefighters at Chester Zoo after a fire broke out in the Monsoon Forest habitat area. The fire was caused by an electrical fault, an investigation has found. Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Visitors had to be evacuated from the zoo on Saturday after the blaze broke out in the Monsoon Forest habitat building.

Keepers were able to move all the zoo's mammal species to safety - including a group of critically-endangered Sumatran orangutans - but a number of insects, birds and reptiles died in the fire.

On Wednesday, a Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said the fire had started accidentally and was caused by an electrical fault.

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Fire service area manager Lee Shears said: "This was a large and complex operation involving more than 80 firefighters from Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales fire and rescue services.

"Firefighters and zoo staff worked closely together in an incredibly challenging situation to evacuate the building and rescue as many animals as possible.

"The professionalism and expertise of the staff at the zoo meant that many precious species were saved."

Jamie Christon, Chester Zoo's chief operating officer, added: "We're grateful that the fire and rescue service has been able to conclude its investigation into the cause of the fire so swiftly and would again like to thank them for their valiant efforts on the day, which helped us to rescue so many animals and minimise the extent of the damage.

"Our efforts now will focus on rebuilding Monsoon Forest so we can return some very special species back to their home and continue our mission to prevent extinction."

More than £140,000 has been raised in donations from the public following the fire.

Bosses at the attraction say insurance will pay for fire damage and the cash, donated by more than 7,700 people, will be spent on conservation work.

The zoo described it as "one of the toughest days in our long history".

Eyewitnesses said high winds fanned the flames in the roof of the building when the fire broke out just before 11.30am on Saturday and one person was treated for smoke inhalation, according to North West Ambulance Service.