Cleveland, OH Animals Perish In Circus Fire, Aug 1942



Cleveland, Aug. 4 -- (UP) -- Roaring and screeching in agony, wild animals valued at thousands of dollars, perished today in a fire that destroyed the menagerie tent of the Ringling Brothers - Barnum & Bailey circus at its Cleveland showgrounds.
It was estimated that more than 100 lions, tigers, camels, zebras and other beasts owned by the world's largest circus had died in the flames that spread rapidly from bales of straw and hay.
The fire spread rapidly. Spectators got out of the tent safely. But there was no time to save all of the animals.
Elephants and horses were led to safety. One elephant named Rosie, was burned so badly that it was believed it might be necessary to destroy her.
Nine Cages Lost.
Roustabouts had difficulty in holding the trumpeting elephants and the prancing horses.
At least nine cages of animals were believed caught in the fire.
Five two-humped camels were believed dead or dying.
The fire raced around the circle of cages like a prairie blaze. The circus men, aided by firemen and armed policemen worked fast to prevent its spread. The workers remained calm.
One group led elephants to safety in the direction of city hall. Another led the horses to a parking lot. One man had to hold six excited horses. The injured elephant raged around the circus tent while keepers tried to fend her off with poles. Police Inspector DAVID L. COWLS stood near her with a sub-machine gun waiting to shoot, if necessary.
Zebra Escapes.
One zebra escaped and another was shot. A giraffe escaped and another was shot.
The fire did not spread to the "big top," or main tent.
One circus employe estimated that one-fourth of the animals in the menagerie tent were lost.
Police used their high-powered rifles on the injured animals, that could not be controlled. One elephant, his skin burned off in places and blood streaming from his wounds, charged back and forth in a rage of pain.
The tent burned around one camel that later was brought out still alive.
The gaily-colored wild animal cages were charred black. Piles of hay and straw and the sawdust on the ground smouldered.
Elephants Singed.
A whole group of sideshows near the main tent's entrance were torn down quickly to keep the fire from spreading.
The camels, in particular, were caught in the worst of the fire.
At East 12th street and Lakside avenue, 25 elephants were lined up, some badly singed. Another 25 were corralled on the circus ground near East Ninth and Lakeside avenue.
Police cleared Lakeside avenue between East Ninth and 12th. Spectators were kept off the circus grounds.
Circus officials said that the afternoon performance had been cancelled but that the evening show would go on.
There was no immediate estimate of the damage cost. However, it was pointed out that much of the equipment lost could not be replaced because of the war, such as tents, wagons and steel cages.
In their first estimate of the fire's damage, circus officials place the loss at $125,000. They said they could not tell immediately how many animals had been lost.
Police believed that they had shot 26 animals.
Garagantua and Toto, famous gorillas with the circus, were reported safe.

The Chronicle-Telegram Elyria Ohio 1942-08-04