Metro Richmond Zoo director heard an explosion, then rushed in to save animals from fire

Posted at 12:44 PM, Jun 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-05 21:37:00-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Metro Richmond Zoo Director Jim Andelin and his team are taking inventory Monday of what they have and what they lost in a Sunday night fire at the zoo.

“All of our equipment, tools, everything is gone,” Andelin said. “We have X-Ray equipment, blood machines, and anesthesia, all sorts of equipment, and most of that is all gone as well.”

Andelin, who lives near the zoo, was the first person on the scene as the fire damaged the zoo's veterinary building and feed facility at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

“We heard an explosion,” Andelin said. “I looked out the window, and I saw part of the building on fire.”

He jumped into action and pulled 10 animals out of the veterinary clinic.

“Unfortunately, one meerkat did not make it,” Andelin said.

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Metro Richmond Zoo Director Jim Andelin

He said firefighters gave the surviving animals oxygen and a vet tech took them home to monitor them.

Andelin said those animals were doing well.

Andelin said he and his team were focused on rebuilding.

“We have a great staff here, and they're rolling with the punches,” Andelin said. “There are so many people that come here and enjoy the zoo. We felt that it was more important to stay open [Monday] and keep things as normal as we can. And so that's what we've done.”

Susan Patton, whose nephew Jonah had been looking forward to Monday's trip to the zoo for weeks, said she was thankful for the zoo's effort.

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"This was his top priority," she said. "We were very grateful that the staff was able to still keep the zoo open."

Chesterfield Fire investigators said it did not appear the fire was set on purpose, however, they are still working to determine what started the fire.

The fire also damaged golf carts zoo staff uses to get around the property and decorations for the zoo’s annual Christmas production, “The Miracle of Christmas.”

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