Grumpy Tortoise Starts House Fire On Christmas Day


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist


The 45-year-old tortoise might look angry, but he had a very lucky day. Essex Fire Service

A pet tortoise has been rescued after "accidentally" starting a fire on Christmas Day – although, judging by the look on the tortoise’s face, this was no mistake. 

Firefighters were called to a house in Great Dunmow, a small town in Essex, UK, just before 4.30pm on Christmas Day after neighbors heard the ping of a smoke alarm, according to an incident report by Essex Fire Service.


Fortunately, the fire was quickly located and promptly put out, but the firefighters soon realized that this was no normal Christmas Day fire sparked by alcohol-induced burnt potatoes. 

"The fire started after the tortoise knocked a heat lamp onto its bedding, which then caught alight,” Gary Wain, watch manager at Great Dunmow Fire Station, said in a statement 

He went on to stress the importance of ensuring your house is fitted with working smoke alarms on every level (especially if you live with a pissed-off pet reptile). 

"This tortoise has had a very lucky Christmas Day – he is 45 years young and will now hopefully continue to live a long and happy life thanks to working smoke alarms," Wain continued.


Essex County Fire and Rescue Service added on Facebook: “This 45-year-old tortoise might look angry but it’s his lucky day.”

At 45 years of age, this grumpy guy really is a spring chicken, at least in tortoise terms. Some species of tortoise are among the longest-living vertebrates in the world. One of the oldest known individuals – a Seychelles giant tortoise called Jonathan – is thought to have been born in 1832, around the time Charles Darwin was exploring the world on the second voyage of HMS Beagle.

Don’t be fooled by tortoises’ chilled out and dopey demeanor though. A recent study found that some species, such as Galápagos giant tortoises and Seychelles giant tortoises, are capable of learning new skills and even perform them almost a decade later after being trained. Using a form of conditioning, tortoises were trained to associate food with a specifically colored ball on a stick. When presented with two different colored balls, they were able to select the ball associated with food, bite it, and receive the reward. Incredibly, the tortoises were able to recall this training an impressive nine years later. 

Who knows, perhaps the tortoise that caused the commotion earlier this week had just recalled a bad memory from nine Christmases ago.


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