Hope firefighters become familiar with elephant facility
Hope — With the impending arrival of two Asian elephants to live out their retirement in Hope, the town's fire department recently took a tour of the facility to become familiar with the facility's floor plan.
Monday, Aug. 20, 14 Hope firefighters toured the Hatchet Mountain Road facility to learn the layout of the barn and where things are, such as the mechanical room, since that's the most probable area for a fire, Hope Fire Chief Clarence Keller said.
Two Asian elephants, Rosie and Opal, are anticipated to make their way to Hope by mid-to-late September, said Dr. Jim Laurita, co-founder of Hope Elephants. Laurita said the group is waiting for one last approval from the state and then the two pachyderms will be northbound from Oklahoma.
Both Rosie and Opal have been long-term residents at the same circus in Hugo, Okla. Once Hope Elephants identified Opal as a candidate, Opal and Rosie were moved into a shared living space in Oklahoma to assure that they are socially compatible, according to a previously published news release from Hope Elephants.
In addition to learning the building's floor plan, the fire department also took into consideration such things as overhead electrical wires running from the poles to the building to be familiar with apparatus placement in the event of an incident, Keller said.
"It's little things like that." Keller said. "If not thought out ahead of time — like in this particular case — the driveway is in front of the building so if the power lines comes across the entrance, we learned we can't park in there because we don't want to drop power lines on our operation."
Hope Elephants, in cooperation with the Knox County Emergency Management Agency and Hope Fire Department have developed an emergency operations plan, specifically for the facility. Keller said according to research that Laurita has done, no other wild game facilities in the state have gone to this extent.
"We feel that we are certainly ahead of the curve," Keller said.
The plan covers everything from an elephant escape to a fire.
Keller said as the plan was developed, potential types of emergencies that could occur were listed and then prioritized with the most probable incidents. The plan was kept simple, with one-page flow charts for each potential incident, the fire chief said.
In the event of a fire, Seacoast Security would contact emergency services and either Jim Laurita, his brother Tom Laurita or Andrew Stewart, who would take the elephants to the outside, fenced-in yard or in a stall if it was safe to do so, according to the plan.
If an elephant escaped, the plan states that Jim Laurita is the first to be contacted, followed by Maine Warden Service. If Jim Laurita cannot be located, the back up is to contact Tom Laurita or Stewart. The elephant would then be returned to the facility.
If Jim Laurita was injured, Tom Laurita or Stewart would be contacted and if they could not be reached, Maine State Trooper Jeremiah Wesbrock or the Maine Warden Service should be contacted, according to the plan. Tom Laurita and Stewart (or Wesbrock or wardens) would then lure the elephant into the pen with grain. If the elephant refused to go with grain, it would then be injected with a sedative and then the sedated elephant would be lured into the pen using a rope tied around its leg, the plan states.
"We are not going to be controlling the elephant," Keller said of firefighters. "We are going to be providing crowd control and making sure the public is safe while Jim and the others are dealing with the elephant."
Hope Elephants, which is a nonprofit organization, has an online fundraising campaign to raise $10,000 to pay for Rosie and Opal's trek to Maine. For more information or to donate, go to: indiegogo.com/hugotohope.
The Camden Herald reporter Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.