CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (AP) — The owner of a southern Indiana wildlife facility says 41 of its animals have been killed in a fire.
Wildlife in Need owner Tim Stark told WAVE-TV that the animals killed in the fire at a barn Tuesday were mostly birds and reptiles. The Charlestown facility is known for its fundraisers where people play with young tiger cubs, and Stark said the facility’s tigers and other large cats weren’t near the burning barn.
Stark said he wasn’t there when the fire started, but rushed back when he got a call from one of his employees. He ran into the burning barn and rescued a handful of animals, including three wolves, he said.
“All the years you put in with them. Then you lose them over something like that,” Stark said.
Charlestown Assistant Fire Chief Andre Heal said flames and smoke engulfed the barn when crews arrived in the early afternoon, and that it took about 90 minutes to contain the fire. The structure was roughly 40-by-60-feet, he said, and was used as a maintenance facility and housed some animals.
Heal said fire crews had the added stress of having exotic animals around, but they didn’t have any close encounters with the animals. He said they let facility personnel secure animals involved.
It’s not known how the fire started, Heal said.
Inspections of the facility by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year found abuse of animals and unsafe conditions for visitors. Stark has said he loves his animals and hasn’t done anything wrong.
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