2 giraffes, 15 parrots die in Burlco zoo blaze

Posted: November 01, 2011

Two giraffes and as many as 15 parrots died Sunday in the second fatal fire this year on a Burlington County property that houses a zoo and pet store.

About 20 dogs were rescued from their kennels, said George Sipp, whose brother, Burton, is a longtime owner of Animal Kingdom Zoo on Jacksonville-Jobstown Road in Springfield Township. Seven giraffes, among those stabled in a barn attached to the store, were unharmed in the three-alarm blaze.

Burton Sipp's wife, Bridget, also a co-owner, died in an April house fire on the 38-acre property.

Firefighters were dispatched around 8:45 p.m. Sunday after a passerby noticed fire in the store, where the parrots had been brought in for the winter, officials said.

"There was heavy fire when we arrived and it spread pretty quickly to the remainder of the building," said Springfield Township Fire Chief Brian Kokotajlo.

A Halloween party at Animal Kingdom had wrapped up around 8:15 p.m., George Sipp said. The zoo, which opened in the late 1980s, housed many animals, including monkeys, porcupines, wolves, and birds, he said.

"Don't know how [the fire] could start that fast," he said. "It must have been some kind of explosion that must have ignited it."

More than 100 firefighters from about 20 agencies responded to the blaze, which was under control shortly before midnight, Kokotajlo said. No humans were injured, he said.

The surviving giraffes will be cared for at Six Flags Wild Safari game preserve, a spokeswoman for the Jackson, N.J., theme park confirmed Monday. The dogs will be sold or put up for adoption, Sipp said.

In April, Bridget Sipp reportedly rushed back into a burning log cabin, where she lived on the property, thinking her mother was trapped inside. Her mother was rescued, but Bridget Sipp never emerged.

An investigation determined that that fire was caused by an electrical malfunction near a freezer in the cabin.

Sunday's fire is under investigation by the state police and the county and state fire marshal's offices.

"There is no reason to believe the fire in April and this fire are related," township Police Chief Eric Trout said.

On both occasions, Burton Sipp was in Arizona training horses. He arrived in New Jersey early Monday and is "doing the best he can," George Sipp said.

"Two tragedies" in a few months, he said. "It's hard to comprehend."


Contact staff writer Darran Simon at 215-854-3829, dsimon@phillynews.com, or @darransimon on Twitter.

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