COUNTY NEWS: Sussex zoo staff help fight farm fire on A27
More than 1,500 people including children had to be evacuated from Drusillas yesterday (Wednesday) when a fire broke out in farmland opposite the attraction.
Staff at the zoo park also helped firefighters tackle the blaze, thought to have been caused by the excessive temperatures.
Cassie Poland at Drusillas said no harm came to either Drusillas Park or any of its inhabitants.
“Thanks to the quick thinking actions of our operations manager Gareth Hutchinson and his emergency team, Drusillas managed to safely evacuate 1,500 people in under 25 minutes,” said Cassie.
“We are all still in shock that this happened; you never think a wild fire is going to be an issue in England. I just want to take a moment to thank the fire fighters for doing such an amazing job – without them I dread to think what might have happened.
“I would also like to really recognise how amazing the staff at Drusillas were. Within seconds of being notified of the evacuation, everyone sprang into action and made sure all of our visitors were escorted to safety.
“Many of our staff were downright heroic, jumping into action and helping fire fighters to tackle the blaze. Our staff formed a chain and were passing water buckets, fire extinguishers and hoses back and forth to fire fighters to help them conquer the fire. We even had staff running up and down with wheelbarrows full of water bottles to keep the fireman hydrated.”
Cassie said the park’s emergency team also doused down Drusillas’ buildings with water to prevent them catching alight, as well as keeping the flames from igniting across the road.
“We also had staff bravely directing traffic on the A27, ensuring that cars stopped to allow visitors to quickly and safely get away from the area.
“The actions of our staff were completely selfless, heroic and very, very brave. We are proud of every single person who helped us to control what was a potentially hazardous situation.
“It was frightening, especially with the roar of flames and the ash falling from the sky, but they all remained calm and truly went above and beyond the call of duty.”
All of the animals remained safe and were kept calm by their keepers.
Head keeper Mark Kenward said, “Thankfully no harm has come to any of our animals; they are all safe and well. We had an outstanding number of offers from zoos in various counties – all offering to come and collect our animals and help us evacuate if necessary. So thank you to Howletts, Dudley Zoo and many more for their very kind offers of help.
“It was a really tough day, really scary for everyone involved. But the team work was incredible. Our staff really pulled together and worked as a solid unit, even members of the public were offering lifts to those who were stranded.”
Drusillas Park is back open and fully operational.