Safari Joe's Fire Kills Nearly 100 Animals

Friday, January 18th 2008, 9:11 pm
By: News On 6

It is expected to be quite some time before an exotic animal park will reopen after a deadly fire. Eighty to 100 animals died in a fire at Safari Joe's Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary. It's along highway 69 three miles north of Adair in Mayes County. News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports the owner is looking to recover from the tragedy.

Joe Estes says he couldn't believe what was happening when a large building with animals inside caught fire at Safari Joe's Exotic Wildlife Refuge near Adair.

"You can't see anything. The whole building was just filled with black smoke and you can't see anything at all," said Joe Estes of Safari Joe's Wildlife Refuge.

Firefighters were able to put out the fire in about 20 minutes, but it burned long enough to kill as many as 100 animals.

"My heart is just. I can't feel anything right now," said owner Joe Estes.

Safari Joe's is a sanctuary for unwanted, abused or neglected exotic animals. The monkeys, birds, reptiles and other animals killed in the fire were housed in the large barn for the winter.

"I've been just devastated from the second it happened until now. I just can't even think," said Joe Estes of Safari Joe's Wildlife Refuge.

Investigators believe the fire started accidentally by a heater.

Estes also takes some of the animals from Safari Joe's to schools, nursing homes, and birthday parties throughout the year. But now because of the fire, he'll have to cancel many of those appearances. And, he says he's not even sure if the park will be able to open at all this year. Estes says right now, he's concentrating on immediate needs of the animals that survived.

But, the loss of so many animals, many of whom he had been bottle fed, will be hard to overcome.

"Trying to be strong, to be able to take care of every other animal, too, but at the same time, crying and everything else. There are so many emotions going through you. It is unreal," said Joe Estes of Safari Joe's Wildlife Refuge.

Safari Joe's is a nonprofit organization. In addition to killing the animals, the fire also destroyed all of their feed and medical supplies. An assistance fund for the sanctuary has been set up. Donations can be made at any Arvest Bank.