10 animals at Ohio wildlife park killed in ‘devastating’ Thanksgiving fire, officials say

A fire at an Ohio wildlife park on Thanksgiving Day killed 10 animals and left staff devastated by their loss.

The African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton, Ohio said in a statement Friday on Facebook that “following a devastating Thanksgiving fire that killed 10 animals, the staff at African Safari Wildlife Park are working today to care for animals frightened by the fire and caring for one another after the trauma.” 

“We’re so grateful to the community and first responders who are helping us through this terrible event. Thousands of people have reached out with condolences and offers of support,” said Holly Hunt, co-owner of the Wildlife Park, which is closed on Friday.

“Despite being so saddened by losing 10 animals we loved, our team is here caring for the more than 400 other animals living in the park. Thankfully they are all safe. We are providing grief counseling to our team members, who are heartbroken by the loss,” she said.

Police told Cleveland 19 that there had been “two explosions” inside the barn, where many of the park’s animals were housed, after the fire broke out.

The fire was discovered about 6:15 p.m. on Thursday. 

“The building was completely destroyed, and 10 animals, housed inside, perished,” the wildlife park said. 

“The fire was traumatic for all the animals, particularly those closest to the flames. They are under the care of our veterinarians, who were also at the park throughout the night as we brought the animals back inside,” Hunt said. “We cannot express how appreciative we are to the team members, the firefighters and police officers who were here helping manage this crisis.”

Officials have not yet determined a cause of the fire, the wildlife park said. 

“We are still assessing the loss of wildlife that was housed in the barn for overnight care and security. Park staff members are on the scene with firefighters and official responders,” a statement from the wildlife park said.

“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-acre Park,” the statement said. 

Hunt said she wants to see the tragedy in a different light. 

“We are establishing a memorial as part of our Guardian of Wildlife fund from which all donations go to wildlife conservation, including supporting giraffe conservation. We all love wildlife and want to turn this tragedy into a positive for wildlife,” she said.

The wildlife park is accepting donations here

A local man Aaron DiBucci captured footage that shows giraffes running as the barn burns down behind them. He posted the video on Facebook, writing that the scene was “absolutely horrific.”

Storyful contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.