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Updated: 1:20 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 | Posted: 7:11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016

Gatlinburg wildfire threatens Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies; employees forced to abandon building

By Natalie Dreier

Cox Media Group National Content Desk

GATLINBURG, Tenn. —

Update: All of the animals at the Ripley Aquarium are safe, officials announced on the aquarium's Facebook page. The aquarium will be closed until the evacuation has been lifted. 

>> UPDATED STORY: Gatlinburg aquarium: 'Animals are safe' after devastating Tennessee wildfires

For the safety of our employees and guests, all of our Attractions will remain closed until the evacuation has lifted....

Posted by Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies on Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Original post: Thousands of animals at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies are being threatened by wildfires that have destroyed hotels, homes and businesses.

But the aquarium, which houses more than 10,500 animals, is still standing, WBIR reported.

Ryan DeSear, Tennessee Ripley Attractions general manager told the television station that he wasn't sure if the flames reached the building, but said the webcams were still broadcasting overnight Monday and that the building itself was still there.

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"As long as we have fuel in our generators, that aquarium can run on its own," DeSear said.

The aquarium is built on a bunker and steps were taken to ensure the safety of the animals, WATE reported.

The fire was only 50 yards from the building when workers were forced to leave their stations.

Many vowed not to leave because they didn't want to leave the animals behind.

"They were (forced to evacuate). To them, every animal has a name. You don't give that up," DeSear said.

He was one of the last to leave the building Monday evening. He said he checked on the animals before he left and all were acting normally.

 
 

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