100 animals feared dead after fire tears through California reptile museum, cops say
A fire that created heavy smoke and flames at a Southern California reptile museum on Thursday killed around 100 animals, according to local authorities and representatives of the museum.
The Yucaipa Police Department said in a Facebook post that the blaze closed off the road and surrounding area near Mountain Town Reptile Museum in Oak Glen.
Police asked locals to avoid the area as firefighters battled the flames and smoke, and said the fire was contained to one structure.
“Firefighters arrived to heavy smoke and fire,” CAL FIRE’s San Bernardino Unit wrote on Facebook Thursday afternoon. “Resources will remain committed on scene for several hours.”
Yucaipa police shared video the department said featured Precious Dykstra, the daughter of the museum’s owner, speaking about the fire damage. Dykstra listed geckos, snakes, tortoises, parakeets and more as animals that were in the museum when the fire broke out.
“We lost everything except — we had our same birds that we’ve had for 20 years ... they’re the big red and blue ones — we were able to get them out,” Dykstra said, adding that the number of animals killed was “probably 100.”
First responders reached the fire scene around 11:30 a.m., as heavy winds risked fanning the flames into nearby structures and brush, the San Bernardino Sun reports.
CAL FIRE wrote on Twitter that it’s investigating the cause of the blaze.
The museum sits on 14 acres and offers two animal and reptile shows a day, according to the Sun, with an assortment of creatures at the site, including boas, hissing cockroaches, lizards, macaws, parrots, pythons, rabbits, raccoons and tarantulas.
“We are dedicated to helping children and their families learn about Nature and Reptiles,” a museum webpage reads. “We especially want to help those children who are emotionally and physically challenged. We strive to specifically help them to become more aware of conservation, reptiles, farm life and how humans interact with reptiles.”