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African Safari Wildlife Park rebuilding and healing after 2019 fire

WTOL 11 is getting an inside look at the new building that will soon house some animals at African Safari Wildlife Park.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Tragedy struck on the grounds of African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton nearly three years ago on Thanksgiving Day when a fire killed 10 animals. It also crushed the staff's spirit.

"It was one of the worst days of all of our lives. Probably the worst day of my life," Park Director Kelsey Keller said.

Park staff never really got closure. That is, until now. 

"It's taken us a long time to grow up through that. To figure out how we give our guests the best experience possible, but how to also repair our team and give them the energy and enthusiasm to get through this," Keller said.

Keller explained park staff finally reclaimed that enthusiasm again in a brand new building on the property. The new barn boasts stalls standing 20 feet tall for the giraffes, heated floors to give them that safari feel and bright natural light.

The space also features enhanced functionality to accentuate animal comfort.

"All of the doors have these beautiful slides so the keepers have an easy job and also have a little cute catch," explained Keller. "These will be automatically filled so the giraffes have as much water as they could ever want."

Everything in the new barn will better benefit both keepers and animals. Keller said all the new specs in the barn were recommended by staff members, which has contributed to part of the healing process. Keller stressed the importance of looking at the silver linings. 

RELATED: Investigators: Cause of Thanksgiving fire at African Safari Wildlife Park ruled 'undetermined'

"We've taken something that could be very, very heartbreaking and turned it into something that is going to better both our animals, our team and ultimately, the public," she explained.

The animals will call the new building home in about a month. Keller said it will soon be the center of the entire safari so the public can benefit from it, too.

RELATED: New giraffe exhibit allows an up close and personal experience for visitors

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