‘Gut-wrenching’: African Safari Wildlife Park co-owner says workers are devastated after 10 animals die in fire

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PORT CLINTON, Ohio (WJW) -- The co-owner of African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton said she and park workers are devastated after 10 of their animals were killed in a fire on Thanksgiving.

Holly Hunt said three giraffes, three bongos, three red river hogs and a springbok died after their barn was destroyed by the fire, which broke out at around 6 p.m. About 300 animals live on the 100-acre drive-thru park that is in its 51st season.

"Our team, they work so hard to care for these animals, and it's just gut-wrenching that this could happen," said Hunt. "Our team works so hard every day to care for these animals. It's just heartbreaking."

The park was closed for the holiday, but a worker spotted the flames after the lights flickered. By the time firefighters arrived, the barn was engulfed. Fire officials say explosions were heard inside the structure, most likely from propane tanks. They were able to contain the fire to the one barn.

Video being shared on social media shows a giraffe running through the park. Police say that giraffe got loose from another barn and was not harmed in the fire.

The park will be closed Friday as the staff mourns the loss of life and cares for the other animals living on the property.

The park issued the following statement on their Facebook page:

"Our African Safari Wildlife Park team is devastated by the loss of animals housed in a barn destroyed by fire that was discovered early Thanksgiving evening. We are grateful that our staff is safe and no one was injured, but the loss of the wildlife that we care for every day is tragic for our team members who love these animals.

We are still assessing the loss of wildlife that was housed in the barn for over-night care and security.

Park staff members are on the scene with firefighters and official responders. An investigation is underway into the cause of the fire.

The animals lost in this tragedy were part of our African Safari family, and the Park will be closed on Friday as we mourn their loss and care for the other animals living on the 100-area Park.

We deeply appreciate the first responders who worked on the holiday to try and save animals affected by the fire and thank the community for its support during this very difficult time.

Again, we are grateful that our staff are safe, although we are all grief-stricken over this loss."

Continuing coverage. 

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