Investigators confirmed the fire at the San Diego Zoo on Monday was no accident. The pre-dawn blaze tore through a large gift shop outside the Giant Panda exhibit and badly damaged the store.
Thanks to the quick action of a zoo security guard who spotted the flames at 1:12 a.m. Monday morning and called 911 for help, none of the pandas were hurt. The gift shop was approximately 50 yards from the bears and an aviary.
Zoo Spokesperson Christina Simmons told San Diego 6 news, “The fire was a scare for all of us. Anytime there’s a major fire we are concerned particularly for the animals in our collection. The animals are doing fine.”
After spending 7 hours investigating the damage, San Diego Fire Spokesman Maurice Luque alerted the zoo about the suspicious nature of the fire. He said, “We know it’s arson.”
Sources told the news station “an employee who had access to the park may be to blame.”
Luque said his investigators plan to look at disgruntled employees, recent correspondence to the zoo and review the surveillance cameras before coming to a conclusion about the possible identity of the arsonist.
The L.A. Times reported the fire charred 1,200 square-feet of the Panda Canyon gift shop and caused $700,000 worth of damage. Two-dozen firefighters had the blaze under control in 15 minutes.
The zoo was able to open as scheduled on Monday. Visitors expressed their concern about the fire and the tragedy that could have occurred to the pandas and other animals if the security guard hadn’t walked by when he did.
Photo: fortherockvia flickr.