Grass fire shuts down SeaWorld’s Aquatica

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – A brush fire left thousands without power in Chula Vista Friday afternoon and shut down Sea World’s newest attraction, Aquatica.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 5.07.40 PMWe had a pretty quick moving grass fire behind us and it appears it may have started a fire in this area,” said Chief Dave Hanneman, Chula Vista Fire Department.

Hanneman said the fire started when a passing dump truck clipped power and fiber optic lines and caused the wires to spark.Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 5.07.57 PM

“We have a downed power line behind us and it appears it may have started in this area,” said Hanneman.

SDG&E said the fire knocked out power to 2,066 residents in the area for more than three hours.

Cara Ballantyne and her friends were at the water park when things stopped working.

“We saw the smoke and didn’t think anything of it,” said Ballantyne. “It was fine one second and then everything stopped.”

“We didn’t expect this.  When we saw it, it was pretty shocking,” said Carolina Cesena, Ballantyne’s friend.

Pictures sent to Fox 5 from another park patron showed empty slides and a completely calm wave pool.  SeaWorld said it had to shut down Aquatica because the park could not operate without power, but also for safety concerns.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 5.45.07 PM

Outside the park, fire crews worked quickly to gain control of the flames. Crews from four agencies tackled the burning hillside and a helicopter was brought in from San Diego to help.  Firefighters said the fire scorched some 25 acres, but crews were able to have it contained in just over an hour.  After the smoke cleared, firefighters had to stay and watch over hot spots.

“Especially with these winds we don’t want a hot ember down here to pick up and go to another area,” said Hanneman.

For Ballantyne, the fire destroyed more than the nearby hillside, the day at Aquatica was to celebrate her birthday.

“It’s like a day you won’t forget,” said Ballantyne.  “I’m definitely sad about that.”

Sea World said it would give out refunds, patrons are asked to contact guest services.

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