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More than 300 animals escape injury in Living Treasures fire

| Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, 12:54 a.m.
WPXI
Firefighters battle an overnight fire at Living Treasures Animal Park in Donegal Township on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014.
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Matt Dumbauld, 32, on-site manager at Living Treasures Wild Animal Park, carries a 6-month-old kangaroo named Reagan in a small bag. The bottle-fed kangaroo had to be evacuated from Dumbauld's residence at the Donegal Township park during an overnight fire on Aug. 4, 2014.

Matt Dumbauld stood outside the charred remains of his residence at Living Treasures Wild Animal Park in Donegal Township Monday morning, cuddling a 6-month-old kangaroo named Reagan.

The park, its Log Cabin Lodge and Suites, Mountain Horse Saddlery and Gift Shop and Highlands Hall banquet facility all were open Monday, hours after a fire destroyed several buildings.

The kangaroo was one of seven animals, including another baby kangaroo, three dogs and two pot-bellied pigs, who live with Dumbauld, the park manager, and his wife, Fawn.

“Everybody is safe, everything is good. No people, no animals were hurt,” Dumbauld said.

The zoo is home to more than 300 animals, including lions, tigers and bears.

A vacant two-bedroom suite, a storage building full of horse feed for sale and Dumbauld's residence were damaged.

Firefighters from Westmoreland, Fayette and Somerset counties battled the fire, which started about 11:15 p.m. Sunday, Dumbauld said.

“There is a double roof on there that was giving us a bit of difficulty. The fire got in between the roofs to make it a little harder to get to,” said Chief Shawn Kestner of Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Department.

Dumbauld, 32, and his wife, 31, have been on-site park managers for six years.

Park owner Tom Guiher is his wife's father, Dumbauld said.

“I found the fire. My wife and I were watching television and I heard a crackling sound from the bathroom. I saw smoke and went outside and saw the storage room on fire,” Dumbauld said.

He called 911 and helped to kick in a door at one undamaged suite after the occupants failed to open the door.

As a precaution, overnight guests were relocated to a nearby hotel, Dumbauld said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, he said, but appears to have been electrical in nature.

“Thankfully the way the wind and everything blew last night, we didn't have any (smoke) go to the zoo,” Dumbauld said.

Firefighters were at the park until about 4:15 a.m., Dumbauld said.

Guiher founded the park's Moraine location near New Castle in 1992, and opened the Laurel Highlands park in 1998.

Among the animals visitors can view, and sometimes pet and feed, are an alpaca, alligator, Brahma bull, black swan, dromedary camel, timber wolf, white bison and zebra.

By mid-morning Monday, visitors were filling the park's lot.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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