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Cause of fire that killed 10 animals at safari park is unknown

Fire was at African Safari Wildlife Park in Ohio

(CNN) - The cause of a fire that killed 10 animals Thursday at the African Safari Wildlife Park in northern Ohio has not yet been determined, officials say.

Three giraffes, three red river hogs, three bongos (large forest antelope) and a springbok (a gazelle-like antelope) were inside a barn that was destroyed by the blaze, said the Danbury Township Police.

The 300 other animals in the park have been accounted for, said park co-owner Holly Hunt.

The building was destroyed, and officials have not determined where the fire started, said Frank Reitmeier, investigator for the State of Ohio Fire Marshal's Office, during a press conference Friday afternoon.

The investigation could take several weeks, Reitmeier said.

Reitmeier said investigators do not believe the fire was a crime. They are looking into reports that a power outage occurred in the area beforehand, Reitmeier said.

Veterinarians are monitoring some animals due to the stress they experienced during the blaze, Hunt said.

Through tears, Hunt said she was "devastated" by the loss of so many animals and that grief counselors were on site to help staff members. She said that every zoo in Ohio and several from around the country has reached out to support the park.

The park was scheduled to close for the season on Sunday.

The barn where the fire occurred was heated but did not have a fire suppression system and was built in the 1980s, Hunt said.

Most of the animals killed in the fire had been at the park for at least a few years, although three were acquired as recently as last week, Hunt said.

Hunt identified the giraffes as Waylon, 3, Beltre, 2, and Quinn, 1. Waylon had been with the park since 2017, Beltre since this week, and Quinn since June.

One of the red river hogs, Merlin, had been a resident since 2012 and was 9. The two others, 7-year-old sisters named RJ and Priscilla, were set to join Merlin in an exhibit constructed this year, Hunt said.

The springbok, Chip, was 9 and had lived at the park for seven years, according to Hunt.

Bongos Tank, 15, Diesel, 10, and Binti, 5, were also killed. Tank was a staff favorite that arrived at the park in 2006, Hunt said, and greeted his keepers at the door of his enclosure for head scratches. Diesel came to the park in 2010. Binti had been at the park for four years, and keepers were hoping she would have a baby in early spring.

The park is establishing a conservation fund and may set up a plaque commemorating the animals that died.

CNN's Nicole Chavez and Alta Spells contributed to this story.


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