Thousands of animals left behind at Ripley’s Aquarium as wildfires hit Gatlinburg

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Workers at an aquarium evacuated because of wildfires around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, are concerned about the thousands of animals housed there.

Ryan DeSears, general manager of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, tells WBIR-TV  that the building was still standing and all workers had been evacuated late Monday.

However, he said workers were anxious to return to check on the well-being of the 10,518 animals.

DeSears says the animals should be safe as long as the building has power and doesn’t catch fire.

When the facility is functioning properly, the animals can survive for 24 hours without human intervention. He said the animals were behaving normally when he left the building.

The wildfire in Tennessee has set 30 structures ablaze in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel, and is at the edge of the Dollywood theme park.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Dean Flener said Monday night that mandatory evacuations were underway for areas in and around Gatlinburg, including the south part of Pigeon Forge, where Dolly Parton’s theme park is.

Flener says strong afternoon winds fanned the wildfire on land in the great Smoky Mountains National Park to move quickly onto private property.

TEMA says no deaths have been reported.

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