Officials shut down San Antonio Aquarium citing number of safety hazards

Aquarium closed to public as business addresses issues, fire chief says

SAN ANTONIO – The Leon Valley Fire Department on Wednesday evacuated the San Antonio Aquarium after authorities discovered a number of safety hazards during a routine fire inspection.

Firefighters found unsecured propane tanks, heaters in unvented enclosures, a hazardous gas main tap, blocked or inappropriate emergency exits and non-compliant, hazardous electrical wiring, according to a news release from the city of Leon Valley.

Leon Valley Fire Chief Michael Naughton said the evacuation was a preventive measure, adding that the propane tanks and heaters in unvented enclosures could potentially cause a flammable gas build up and carbon monoxide.

"Our goal is to keep the businesses safe," Naughton said. "It's not to cause them harm, shut them down, anything like that. It's to work with them to resolve issues."

Naughton said their aim was to protect from fire rather than be forced to fight a fire. 

"This is easier on everybody -- doing a fire inspection like this, than to have a fire and worry about it later," Naughton said. 

Leon Valley City Manager Kelly Kuenstler said they shut down the facility after Naughton categorized the hazards as "immediate life safety issues."

Officials are working with aquarium staff to bring the aquarium into compliance.

Naughton said aquarium staff will be allowed into the building to provide care for the animals as they work to address the issues cited Wednesday. However, the aquarium will remain closed to the public until further notice.

Jen Spellman, the general manager of the San Antonio Aquarium, said she hopes the facility will be reopened tomorrow. 

"We’ve been working with the fire department for months and months now," Spellman said. "They come out, and at least twice, monthly inspections, and we’ve been making all the upgrades and changes they’ve requested of us. They always come back and we figure out more stuff that is needed, so we’re making all the upgrades, all the changes that they’ve been asking for.”

Spellman said in the meantime, the animals are not in danger.

"They (the animals) are being cared for," Spellman said. "We have our staff in the building. They’re still feeding everyone, still taking care of everyone. That’s our priority.”

About the Authors:

Stephanie Serna is a weekday anchor on Good Morning San Antonio and GMSA at 9 a.m. She joined the KSAT 12 News team in November 2009 as a general assignments reporter.