Noccalula Falls remains closed after fire kills dozens of animals

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 7:48 PM CDT
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GADSDEN, Ala. (WBRC) - Noccalula Falls park remained closed Monday after a fire early Sunday morning swept through a barn killing dozens of animals.

The park’s supervisor says the cause is still unknown.

And while she and other park staff are heartbroken by this loss, they are planning to reopen by the end of the week.

Noccalula Falls Park Supervisor, Christina Richardson, says the fire was contained to the park’s animal habitat…a section many referred to as the petting zoo.

About 75 animals that lived in the barn, including guinea pigs, lizards, birds, a lemur and several other animals, were killed.

The fire was called in by a passerby at 5:45 Sunday morning.

“That time of day, there wasn’t any staff here. We did have security at the park, but again, our park is 500 acres, so it was not caught by security. It was caught by someone driving down the road,” Richardson said.

Richardson says the barn was about 15 years old and did not have a sprinkler system.

In addition to housing the animals, the barn also housed hay and feed.

“As far as other safe measures, the heat lamps were secured and properly secured to the enclosures they were not where they could get on any hay, or the animals or anything like that,” Richardson explained.

She says the Gadsden Fire Department got to the park within five minutes of the call, but by then, it was too late.

She says the petting zoo staff was very attached to the animals and are now struggling to cope with the loss.

“There’s been a lot of speculation out there about as to what caused the fire. Again, at this time we do not know. The fire marshal is still investigating. It was not negligence on the staff’s part it was truly…you know…something that was not preventable and unfortunately the time of day that it happened no one being around, it’s a very unfortunate outcome,” Richardson explained.

Richardson says when the park reopens later this week, the area that burned will be fenced off.

She says the focus now will be on the 15 or so animals that survived the fire and figuring out the best way to care for them.

She says she’s not sure when or if the barn will be rebuilt.

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