Maryland Testudo statue fire ruled accidental

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJLA) - The University of Maryland campus remains abuzz after one of its iconic Testudo statues became engulfed in flames in the middle of finals week. University of Maryland Police say the fire was accidental.

The Testudo that was engulfed in flames sits outside McKeldin Library. Photo: Justin Sawyer
The statue was not seriously damaged. Photo: ABC7

Photos posted to Twitter show flames "on and about" the metal turtle sculpture outside McKeldin Library. University Police say that the turtle itself was never on fire.

Testudo is a diamondback terrapin. According to the university website, starting in the early 1990s, students have been leaving Testudo offerings - food, cigarettes, soda, beer, poems, computer discs, candy, flowers, coins - at final exam time for good luck.

Police say someone put a candle with a lampshade at the Testudo statue, which tipped over and engulfed the offerings.

“Probably someone placed the lampshade over the candle just to stop it from burning out because of the wind and that caught fire on it,” says Jay Jha, a junior.

On Wednesday, Testudo received Band Aids, get well messages, flowers, and burn relief pads.

"I left him a healthy skin Yogi tea bag," says Charlotte Johnson, a senior.

Authorities say that the fire was out once officers arrived. In a tweet, university President Wallace Loh said that the statue itself suffered no major damage.

Loh appears to be correct - despite being a little sooty and a little bandaged, Testudo should be OK.

"I'm really heartbroken about it," Maryland student Joseph Byun said. "It's a really sad thing."

Meanwhile, University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell says that Testudo is a survivor.

He should know - Mitchell is a Terrapin himself.

"He has survived earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, and it seems like last night he got warm," Mitchell said.

"He came out of is OK. He's going to be fine," says Roger Perez, a sophomore.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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