After the Fire

News and updates after the December 2016 fire.


Thank you for your continued support and thoughts for the zoo in the aftermath of the December 2016 fire. Here you'll find the latest information and we'll continue to provide updates as we learn more about what happened and what comes next. 


Your Questions Answered

What Happened?

At approximately 3:15 p.m. on Thursday, December 15, 2016, a fire was reported in the Night Exhibit. Within minutes of making the call, the Seattle Fire Department responded. The zoo’s Emergency Response Team also responded. The fire was contained at 4:30 p.m. Visitors were safely evacuated and there were no staff or visitor injuries. The Seattle Fire Department reported that two firefighters sustained minor injuries during the event. Fortunately, they have been treated and released. Our thoughts are with them for a speedy recovery.

Our staff practices emergency drills throughout the year. In fact, we had held a venomous snake drill the day before the fire. These protocols helped immensely during the incident, as everyone knew where they should go and what role to play. Because of our training and practice throughout the year, every team member was organized, which allowed for an immediate emergency response.


Are the Animals OK?

Even as the Seattle Fire Department was working to put out the flames on the Night Exhibit’s roof, pairs of keepers, after given the OK by the fire chief, bravely ventured into the next door Day Exhibit to begin evacuating the animals. The animals living in the Day Exhibit were evacuated and swiftly transported in warm vehicles to eight locations around the zoo, all within two hours. While the Night Exhibit has been closed to the public for nearly seven years and has no longer housed animals, a special room in the basement was used for turtles hibernating in the winter. Because the fire originated in the basement, six turtles hibernating in this room are presumed to have succumbed to the heat and smoke. This loss is heartbreaking given the tireless work of our staff to evacuate all of the animals they could reach. As you can imagine, our reptile and amphibian keepers would have done anything they could to retrieve these six turtles. Please keep them in your thoughts.

We’re pleased to report the 182 relocated animals are doing well. Our Animal Health team performed health assessments on the animals and animal care staff continue to monitor every animal for any signs of distress including eye irritation and respiratory issues. There are no immediate health concerns and we’ll continue observing all the animals to make sure there are no long-term impacts from the smoke. These animals have taken up temporary residence in behind the scenes areas throughout the zoo. 

Since the fire, new life is emerging as a sign of hope and a testament to the resilience of these animals and the keepers who love them.  50 tiger-legged monkey frogs —a first-time breeding at the zoo for this frog species; shield-tailed agamas (lizards found in Somalia and Ethiopia); 12 axolotls (Mexican salamanders); and five Burmese vine snakes.


What Can I Do to Help?

The outpouring of kind words and warm thoughts we have received from you all has filled our hearts during these long, difficult days. Many of you have asked if there are more ways to help. At this time, we do not need additional volunteers or materials. Besides your continued support and uplifting words, you can donate directly to amphibian and reptile care by making a gift online and selecting "Reptile and Amphibian Care" from the Designation dropdown menu.

Remember: Select "Reptile and Amphibian Care" from the Designation dropdown menu


What Happens Next?

Since the fire, the zoo has been involved in numerous inspections, evaluation efforts, and conversations with fire, city and insurance personnel. The entire building remains unsafe to access and the Seattle Fire Investigation Unit was unable to determine the cause of the fire.

Due to much uncertainty about the extent of damage, efforts are underway to identify interim housing for the displaced animals including potential exhibit modifications over the next several months. Several animals will remain at the zoo due to their advanced age and pre-existing health conditions and we are working with our colleagues at other accredited facilities to re-home some of our venomous snakes and other animals that we might re-acquire in the future. Another group of animals have been identified to stay at the zoo due to the husbandry expertise of zoo staff and history of caring for these species or because they are significantly endangered and are managed under Species Survival Plans. We hope to place these animals on exhibit for our guests and are focusing on ways to make this happen.

Over the next several weeks, the zoo will continue to assess the damage, including the structure and building’s mechanical and electrical system. Re-occupation of the Day side of the building will depend on damage assessment to the entire building and strategies to replace all of the utilities.

Additional Information

Press Release

Two dwarf crocodiles, survivors of zoo fire, retire to Florida, Mar. 7, 2017
Update on fire at Woodland Park Zoo, Dec. 16, 2016
Fire at Woodland Park Zoo, Dec. 15, 2016
Life after zoo fire: new tree frog tadpoles and lizard and turtle eggs, Jan. 26, 2017
Zoo veterinarians surgically remove bladder stone from lizard that weighs less than a pound

Woodland Park Zoo Blog

After a while, crocodiles
One Zoo
New life emerges as hopeful sign after Woodland Park Zoo fire
Zoo vets perform surgery on lizard that weighs less than one pound

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We are grateful every day to live in a community so filled with compassion