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About 70 animals, including "Neo" the alligator, killed in fire at Nate's Reptile Rescue

Fire leaves about 70 animals dead at Nate's Reptile Rescue
Fire leaves about 70 animals dead at Nate's Reptile Rescue 02:16

SOUTH PARK, Pa. (KDKA) -- An estimated 70 animals were killed after a fire broke out at a reptile rescue in South Park on Monday. 

Armstrong County humane officer Amber Phillips said she couldn't sleep last night, she's so distraught over what she saw.

Phillips rushed to South Park Monday after forming a friendship with the owner, Nate Lysaght.

She told KDKA-TV over the phone that Lysaght helped her immensely in her first days of housing "Chomper." The famously rescued gator made it out alive.

Firefighters carried out animals from Nate's Reptile Rescue after it caught on fire on Feb. 26, 2024.  (Photo: Allegheny County Sheriff's Office)

Phillips said she focuses on saving dogs and cats, but after rescuing nine gators from a home last year, Lysaght became a fast friend and invaluable resource. Now her heart breaks knowing that he's likely blaming himself, feeling like he failed the animals.

Neo, the gator that survived the winter in the Kiski River and recently took a bike ride to freedom, perished in the fire.

Phillips tells KDKA-TV that reptiles' lungs aren't the strongest and she believes most of them died from smoke inhalation or direct contact with the fire.

The fire marshal is still investigating, but a photo from the Post-Gazette shows the setup involving the enclosures hoisted up on wooden braces. The enclosures are made of glass and metal.

Phillips believes the high heat likely killed all the tarantulas and other spiders, all the different lizards and iguanas, leading to a total of roughly 70 deaths.

(Photo: Allegheny County Police Department/Facebook)

Each tank needed a heat lamp, and she said that involved a lot of surge strips.

Phillips wants people to know Lysaght saved these reptiles from the original owners who broke the law by bringing them to our area, and then failed to properly take care of them.

"This falls back on society, it truly does. Society let these animals down, not Nate, and I hope he knows that," Phillips said.

Phillips, Lysaght and first responders safely got 11 gators out and they're now in a safe place. Phillips said they were thrashing around, and that's a good sign. Phillips also said she's planning t-shirts and a fundraiser to help Lysaght rebuild. Those details are forthcoming. 

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