PORT CLINTON, Ohio — The Division of State Fire Marshal’s Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau has completed its investigation of the Nov. 28 barn fire that claimed the lives of 10 animals at the African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton.

Investigators determined the fire on Thanksgiving night originated in the southwest portion of the barn, which was being occupied by three giraffes, three red river hogs, three bongos and a springbok at the time of the fire. The other animals in the park were unharmed and accounted for.

The cause has been ruled undetermined due to the extensive damage to the structure, but there is no indication of any criminal activity associated with the incident. Additionally, investigators could not determine if a reported power outage the day prior had any involvement with causing the fire.

“The post-fire condition of the building prevented the ability to determine an exact cause of the fire,” said Investigator Frank Reitmeier. “During the fire, the vast majority of the building collapsed, so heavy equipment was needed during fire suppression and to locate the remains of the animals that perished.”

The fire was reported at 6:16 p.m. Nov. 28 at the park, located at 267 South Lightner Road in Port Clinton. Danbury Township Fire Department responded to the scene, as well as the Port Clinton and Catawba Island fire departments.

According to representatives from the park, team members are still recovering from the devastating fire and are continuing to care for the hundreds of other animals still at the park. The park invited a grief counselor to help staff members who have been affected by the loss of the 10 animals that were staying in the barn for shelter and warmth. 

“This team has been unbelievable and has rallied to support each other and care for the animals here at the Wildlife Park despite feeling heartbroken over the loss of animals they loved,” said Holly Hunt, co-owner of African Safari Wildlife Park. “Even though they’ve been through so much, their spirits are lifted by the overwhelming show of support of the community. We are so appreciative of the thousands who have reached out with messages of care and support.” 

On Wednesday, Hunt also updated people on the welfare of the zebra and two giraffes that were released during the fire into the secured park from a nearby barn in order to help protect them in case the fire spread. The animals were brought back indoors that night under veterinary care, and they are all doing well. 

The park is expected to reopen for the season Feb. 28, 2020.

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