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Car catches fire in Longleat lion enclosure

Car caught fire in the lion enclosure at Longleat Photo: Barry Batchelor/PA Archive/Press Association Images

A family were forced to abandon their car in the lion enclosure at Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire yesterday. The mum and two children managed to get out of their car and get to a ranger jeep before flames engulfed the front of their car. Keepers reacted quickly and used their vehicles to herd the lions into a separate enclosure as the family were rescued. The dramatic scene on Good Friday was watched by Natalie Wiltshire, who was visiting the park with her family.

"Family escaped just a few minutes before the flames started. I feel for the family - couple of kids. If I'd have been closer I'd have opened my door and told them to get in. Sadly no-one in the surrounding cars bothered to do that. So glad the family are safe. Wish I'd have been closer to help."

– Natalie Wiltshire
Car caught fire in lion enclosure Credit: Laura Jeffries

"The car was completely burnt out. Pleased to hear everyone got out safely, can't think of a worse place for a car fire!"

– Lee Brown, visitor

The park was packed with families making the most of the Bank Holiday sunshine, and many took to Twitter.

A spokesman for Longleat Safari Park said the car caught fire after it overheated at around 1pm in the first of two lion enclosures, which included 12 of the animals. Rangers held back the lions while the woman and two children were ushered into another ranger's van before the animals were locked into their overnight enclosure.

"A female and two children were quickly picked up by the rangers who transferred them into their vehicle and the fire service was called. The car subsequently caught fire after the guests had been escorted out of their car. The lions were cleared from the enclosure and the safari park was closed. There were two vehicles. One pulled up alongside the car and transferred the people while the other car made sure the lions were kept back, but they weren't very interested in what was going on anyway. Then they were put in their house."

– Longleat Park Ranger

A road through the park was cleared for the fire service who extinguished the burning car which has now been removed. No visitors or lions were hurt and the park was closed for around 15 minutes. 16 year old George Lear from Bristol watched the drama unfold from his family's car.

"We were in the lion enclosure at Longleat and saw that all of the lions were staring at something. We turned around to see a smoking car. After the rangers had realised they quickly escorted the people from the smoking car to their own, they blocked the roads and moved all of the other cars away. The car then slowly caught fire and then the whole thing went up leaving the place filled with black smoke. The lions just kept their distance and didn't take their eyes off of the fire and smoke. The rangers were pushing them back but they were reluctant on moving away as they looked interested. They were about 150 metres or so away from the car."

– George Lear, Visitor

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