Fire Guts Maryland Zoological Park

Jay K. Bradish reports on a blaze that included challenges for firefighters, such as wild animals and scarce manpower.


BALTIMORE PIKE VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY Chief: Dan Meredith Personnel: 48 volunteer firefighters Apparatus: One engine-rescue, one tanker, one utility vehicle Population: 1,600 Area: 52 square miles On March 29, 2006, a three-alarm fire destroyed the main exhibit building at a...


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BALTIMORE PIKE VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY
Chief: Dan Meredith
Personnel: 48 volunteer firefighters
Apparatus: One engine-rescue, one tanker, one utility vehicle
Population: 1,600
Area: 52 square miles

On March 29, 2006, a three-alarm fire destroyed the main exhibit building at a zoological park near Cumberland, MD. Firefighters were faced with a well-advanced fire, a limited water supply and no knowledge of what types of exotic animals were inside the building.

Before the fire was extinguished, over 100 animals died, including parrots, parakeets, a hornbill, iguanas, monkeys, snakes, alligators, rabbits, prairie dogs, an armadillo and several reptiles, among them a 50-pound turtle.

The Tri-State Zoological Park, located at 10105 Cottage Inn Lane, cared for injured and unwanted exotic animals. Housed outside of the building were tigers, an African lion and a mountain lion. The one-story wood-frame building, constructed in 1956, measured 50 by 70 feet with a pitched shingle roof. A 20-by-10-foot octagonal addition to the main structure was built of concrete blocks.

The Baltimore Pike Volunteer Fire Company was dispatched to a reported fire at the zoological park after the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services received a cell phone call reporting the fire at 6:41 A.M. Engine-Rescue 4, Tanker 4 (a 1,600-gallon tanker) and Utility 4 responded with eight firefighters under the command of Captain Rick Ware. Also dispatched on the first alarm were Bedford Road Engine-Tanker 3, Bowling Green Engine 8, Bowmans Addition Engine 11, District 16 Engine 7, Flintstone Engine-Rescue 12 and LaVale Ambulance 371.

The crew on first-due Engine-Rescue 4 arrived on scene at 6:54 and found heavy black smoke pushing from the windows and eaves of the building. Locked gates on the access road to the building had to be cut before the apparatus could reach the building. Engine-Rescue 4 was positioned on side A and two 1½-inch pre-connects were deployed to the front doors of the building. Captain Jeff Imes and Firefighter John Harr advanced one line through the first set of doors into a six-foot-long hallway to a second set of doors. As the crew opened the second set of doors into the main exhibit area, a flashover occurred. The two firefighters immediately exited the building without injury. The second pre-connect was manned by another crew as a backup line outside the first set of doors.

Engine-Tanker 3 and Engine 8 arrived on scene and were also positioned on side A. Engine 8 laid a 600-foot supply line from the road to the front of the building. A 100-foot supply line was hand laid to Engine-Rescue 4 from Engine 8 to establish a water supply. Engine-Tanker 3 supplied Truck 1 upon its arrival. Engine 11 was assigned to draft out of Evitts Creek and pumped the supply line laid by Engine 8. Engine 11 drafted out of the creek with 20 feet of hard suction.

The crew from Engine 8 was assigned to B-side operations with Bowling Green Chief Shannon Adams in charge. Firefighters deployed two 200-foot 1½-inch lines and two 200-foot 2½-inch lines from Engine 8. In an effort to protect some of the reptiles, firefighters penetrated the concrete block wall with a piercing nozzle on a 150-foot 1½-inch line supplied by Engine 8.

Ware requested a second alarm at 6:57. District 16 Tanker 7, Ellerslie Engine-Tanker 6 and LaVale Engine 2 responded. He called for a third alarm at 7:21. Shaft Engine 17 and Ridgeley, WV, Engine 25 responded on the alarm. A special request was made for Cumberland Fire Department Truck 1, a 95-foot tower ladder, to respond.

Baltimore Pike Fire Chief Dan Meredith arrived on scene and took command of operations after conferring with Ware and Deputy Chief Beth Evans. LaVale Engine 2’s crew was assigned to side D with LaVale Fire Chief Steve Ellsworth in command of operations. Multiple 1¾-inch handlines were placed into operation for firefighting and to protect a nearby outbuilding. A portable deck gun from Engine 4 was set up at the northwest corner of the building on the B-C corner due to the narrow space between the building and a lion pen. The lion in the pen had become agitated, so no firefighters were placed into this area.

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