Python perishes in circus fire

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Residents who were downtown Thursday afternoon witnessed a dramatic rescue scene at the Riga Circus, where a fire had broken out and caused the evacuation of all animals and personnel from the smoke-filled premises onto a chaotic scene on Merķela street.

The blaze broke out at about 15:40 and required 12 state Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) trucks and 44 firefighters to deal with before it was localized and extinguished without further damage.

However, a python was lost to the accident, likely from overheating or smoke inhalation. All other animals, among them goats, ponies, poodles, dalmations, parrots and doves, were unharmed but understandably skittish. Their caretakers and circus staff did their best to keep them calm and under control.

If it weren’t for the intensive grass-fire season which began early this year with the recent spring-like dry weather, firefighters may have been able to put out the conflagration sooner, but because so many VUGD brigades are out in the countryside fighting them, reserves had to be called in from their vacations and days off.

Altogether 120 square meters burned in the fire, said VUGD senior inspector Juris Blūzmanis. The building is a historic downtown architectural landmark, and its high cupola gives the space lots of room in which a fire can spread. Blūzmanis predicted the liquidation of the fire will take more time despite the fact that it has been localized.

The fire started on the second floor in the dressing rooms and soon prompted the evacuation of all people who were in the building at the time. The animals were taken out of the building by rescuers and handed over to staff outside on the street.

No other injuries were reported. After the premises were aired out later in the evening, the animals were able to return to their pens inside the building. Friday's scheduled performance will go on as planned, circus director Lolita Lipinska told news wire BNS.


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