MEDICINE PARK - It was a close call for the red-eared sliders at the Medicine Park Aquarium and Natural Sciences Center Monday night when a fire ignited and destroyed Turtle Town.
Luckily, said aquarium Executive Director Doug Kemper, the Medicine Park Fire Department responded to the scene quickly and no turtles were injured in the inferno. All 30 of the red-eared sliders housed in the outdoor exhibit at the time were safely transferred from the charred ruins to another habitat. "We're so very glad that all the turtles survived, and no one was hurt," Doug said. "We hate that it happened, but it's relatively minor since all the people are fine and all the turtles are fine."
Comanche County Emergency Management reported that the Medicine Park Fire Department was dispatched to the scene at 7:47 p.m. on Nov. 25. Within less than 15 minutes, the fire was reportedly under control. Making haste, the fire department had responded with three trucks. Breaking into the aquarium's back gate, firefighters ran two lines to extinguish the flames and immediately began to transfer the turtles from the pond into tubs, said Medicine Park Fire Chief David McCoy. According to the fire chief, even local police officials responding to the scene were seen lending a helping hand with a bit of "turtle wrestling."
Since Turtle Town consists of two ponds surrounded by wood decking, Fire Chief David McCoy said the sliders were able to stay safely under the pond water without being injured by the flames. While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, it is suspected that a heat lamp used to help the turtles keep warm may have come in contact with a section of the wood decking causing the fire to ignite. "It's sad, but temporary," said Doug. "It's the most popular exhibit in the aquarium and the kids just love feeding the turtles. It's great fun, so we want to be able to get it back up and running this spring."