Five Emperor Valley Zoo patrons whose cars were destroyed by a fire on the Lady Chancellor Road yesterday are angry with zoo officials for not alerting them to the situation and not permitting them to use the zoo's emergency exits to save their vehicles.Nigel Mc Mayo's car was one of the vehicles completely destroyed after a fire, which started in a bamboo patch, spread to overhead tension lines and engulfed his vehicle and others parked at the base of Lady Chancellor Road around 2.45 pm.
Eyewitness Jason Mc Millan said the fire was so intense it eventually spread to the nearby Chancellor Hill. However, two fire tenders from the Wrightson Road headquarters and Belmont Fire Station responded within 15 minutes.Mc Mayo said: "I heard a commotion like fire and bamboo bursting inside the zoo. I came out to check on my vehicle only to realise that the bamboo patch was on fire and my vehicle and other vehicles were on fire.
"No announcement was made in the zoo. That was real carelessness and negligence on the zoo's part. If they had alerted the public all the vehicles would have been saved."Mc Mayo's wife Alicia tried leaving the zoo with her three children, but said the gate attendant told her she could not pass through the emergency exit and to use the turnstile instead.She said there were a lot of people there and it eventually took a long time to get out.
"I found that was very ridiculous...We should be able to pass through, especially in a situation like this," she said.In an interview at the scene, acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer Dana Roach said two fire trucks were augmented by a bulk water carrier to bring the fire under control.He said firefighters were eventually assisted by zoo personnel using cutlasses and chainsaws to clear the path for the travelling public.
A backhoe and trucks were also called in to help remove the bamboo debris to ensure no fires reignited.Roach said the cause of the fire will be determined later.Mc Mayo said he wanted to know which agency was going to compensate him for his losses.