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Criminal activity not suspected in Ohio safari park fire that killed 10 animals

By Darryl Coote & Ben Hooper

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- The co-owner of the Ohio safari park where 10 animals were killed in a "devastating" fire said it is not yet clear whether the facility will be open for the last two days of its planned season.

Holly Hunt, who owns the African Wildlife Safari Park in Port Clinton with her father, said in a 2 p.m. news conference Friday that grief counselors were at the facility speaking with staff members struggling with the "devastating" Thursday evening fire that killed three giraffes, three red river hogs, three bongos and a springbok.

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She said no additional animals were found to be injured, but some of the zoo's animals, including a zebra and two giraffes rescued from pens adjacent to the building that was totally destroyed by the flames, were being monitored by veterinarians due to extreme stress.

No staff members were injured in the fire.

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Hunt said the zoo had been scheduled to close for the season after Sunday, and it was not yet clear Friday if the public would be allowed inside Saturday and Sunday.

Frank Reitmeier, with the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office, said state investigators arrived Friday morning to begin looking into the cause of the blaze. He said the probe still is in its preliminary stages and could take weeks to complete, but investigators do not currently believe there was any criminal involvement.

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Hunt said the barn that was completely destroyed was built in the 1980s and was a wooden structure with sheet metal siding. She said the building was not equipped with a fire suppression system.

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"Recovery is beginning from this devastating event," Hunt told reporters. "Our team members are here caring for each other and the animals, our community has been incredibly supportive."

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