PORT CLINTON, Ohio (WOIO) - The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed one of the buildings that house the animals at the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton is up in flames.
The fire broke out around 6:15 p.m. on Thanksgiving, according to the Port Clinton Fire Department.
African Safari Wildlife Park posted this devastating statement on Facebook about two hours after the fire broke out:
"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."
Danbury Township police officer Carolyn Demore said there were two explosions inside the barn after the fire broke out.
According to officer Demore, the general manager/animal keeper was on the premises when the flames started.
Officer Demore also confirmed three bongos, three giraffes, three red river hogs, and one springbok that were in the barn when it caught fire are assumed dead.
The Port Clinton Fire Department said their crews are assisting the Catawba Township Fire Department and Danbury Township Fire Department, who is leading the investigation.
The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.
The woman who took these photos said her family saw the flames while driving home from Thanksgiving dinner.
While she was taking the photos, the family heard a loud explosion, according to Tawnya Becks.
The African Safari Wildlife Park’s website said the park is home to alpaca, bactrian camel, bison, bongo, elk, fallow deer, giraffe, guanaco, llama, red river hog, Scottish highlander, sika deer, sulcata tortoise, warthog, white alligator, white bison, white-handed gibbons, and zebra.
Return to 19 News for updates on this developing story.