Owner of Sierra Nevada attraction that lost nearly 1,000 animals in devastating wildfires will rebuild

In another sign of how wildfires could be devastating to California’s famed natural beauty, the owner of a business that offers eco-tourism in the Sierra Nevada said she’s getting donations to fund a new zoo facility for rescued animals.

Maureen Gullo told the East Bay Times that the Feather River Zoo in Mariposa, which is located near the site of the largest wildfire in California history, will be rebuilt at the same site in a couple of years.

“We’re going to get a lot more animals, so hopefully we can get a lot more visitors,” she said.

The fire forced the evacuation of thousands of people in early August. Photos from the scenes showed at least 10,000 trees ablaze in the area surrounding the zoo.

Gullo and her husband, Jim Kornall, the founder of the zoo and a former president of the Sierra Club, shut down the tourist attraction, located in a rural area 40 miles west of Yosemite National Park. The closure of the wildlife park dealt a blow to visitor numbers to the area that had been $2 million to $3 million a year.

In another sign of the recovery of the region, residents of Mariposa were being allowed to return home. And two firefighters who had been trapped for five days by flames near Yosemite were reunited with their families on Thursday.

“I’m telling my wife, I hope we get another five days like this one,” said Mike Milligan, 46, of Reno, Nev.

“I’m thanking the Lord every day,” said Kirsten Scharf, 53, of Weed, Calif. “I’m just very thankful that we are going home. I hope he’s going to see me.”

Gullo said she’s started a GoFundMe page, fundraising for the zoo, with a goal of $100,000.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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