Up in flames

We went to the Zoo this morning for a birthday party.  It was in the carousel room, by the famous Zoo Carousel: a one-of-a-kind delight filled with beautiful animals of every kind.

Because it was a party, many kids were getting on and off without parents immediately with them (Will included).  After a good hour of carousel riding, playing with friends, and catching up with other families, I noticed Paul and Kate were walking over to go back on the Carousel.  I was talking to friends and making sure Will was drinking water; I didn’t notice them on the ride.

I did notice, however, when the ride started briefly and then stopped.  It had turned enough that all the riders (who had filled the front of the Carousel) were now in the back.  If you had a kid on the ride, you couldn’t tell, because they were all in the back.

And the back was hard to see because of white mist filling the air.  Were the water misters turned on high?

I noticed a friend, a Dad of classmates in both Will and Kate classes, walk up to the gate of the ride and look up to the canopy.  He looked uncertain.  I took a few steps to the side.  Were Paul and Kate there?

Just then, Kate came around and took my hand.  Daddy told her to find me.  Paul was throwing kids over the gate, parents were pulling their children off.

Then I saw the flames.  In the center of the column.

The smoke was still hazy and white, so it was easy to see the flames.

A moment later, Paul walked out from the back.  No one else was on the ride.

He came out to me and Kate, then turned to take this.  You can hear me comforting Kate in the background, encouraging her to step back.  She was a little freaked out, as were other kids, though everyone was (thankfully) absolutely fine.

The video shows the hazy smoke and flames, then the dark smoke that poured out of the canopy (we assume when the fire hit grease?)

It happened SO FAST, faster than I ever would have imagined.  Paul recognized the smell of the burn inside the engine (apparently it smells similar to burning pinball machine parts) and was pulling kids off the ride before the smoke was too overwhelming.  He wasn’t the only one; other parents were doing the same.  Thankfully, everyone reacted calmly and quickly, no one was panicked or at risk.

The fire department came to the Zoo and handled the fire.  We don’t know how extensive the damage; it remained confined to the center column.  (Paul’s worry with the kids was that it was catch on the canopy.)

The Zoo protocol may not have been entirely worked out, but eventually the area was closed off.   Still no word in local media about the incident.  Hopefully the damage was very minimal and the Carousel will be open again soon.