Animal Ark rises from the ashes |

Animal Ark rises from the ashes

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Seven months after it came within a few acres of destruction, the Animal Ark is rising from the ashes and re-opening Saturday to the public and the popular school field trips.

One of last summer’s hundreds of wildland fires blackened 32 of the 38 acres Aug. 24 at the wildlife refuge north of Reno.

Looming above green grass sprouts, stark charcoal skeletons of 100-year-old juniper trees stand silent, row upon row.

As flames raged in the compound, founder Diana Hiibel was able to load a few animals on a golf cart, but had to leave the rest to almost certain death.

Miraculously, all survived, although a couple of tigers were singed. They were saved by skillful drops of fire retardant from air tankers.

As a result of donations from 1,200 people, businesses and foundations, the Hiibels and Ark volunteers have cleaned up the debris, saved what they could, and planned new and better enclosures for some of the animals.

”We still don’t have the water we need to plant a thousand trees,” Aaron Hiibel said. The revegetation will take at least five years, but the Hiibels are planting drought-resistant shrubs and trees that will thrive on a new drip irrigation system.

”We just want people to come out and see what their donations have done,” he said. ”We’re so thankful people cared enough to see Animal Ark continue.”