Hope Fire Chief Clarence Keller has met twice with Jim Laurita to discuss his plans to build a facility to house and rehabilitate a retired circus elephant at his Hatchet Mountain Road home and the chief indicated the project will not cause an undue burden on town services.

On July 5, the Hope Planning Board gave conditional approval for Hope Elephants. Laurita, a local veterinarian, and his brother Tom Laurita have formed the nonprofit Hope Elephants and plan to relocate a 42-year-old Asian elephant, Rosie, from the Carson and Barnes Circus, in Hugo, Okla., to Hope to undergo high-end physical therapy to help relieve the nerve paralysis the elephant has developed.

The board will review the safety plans at its Tuesday, July 26 meeting. It begins at 7 p.m. at the Hope Town Office.

The board approved the plans July 5 with the condition that Laurita meet with Keller. In a memo submitted to the town from Keller dated July 15, the fire chief stated he has met with Laurita on two different occasions to discuss the details of his proposal. The chief reviewed the Hope Elephants Draft Emergency Operations Plan, as well as the Hope Elephants Hazard Vulnerability Assessment.

The vulnerability assessment provides a systematic approach to reviewing potential hazards and threats to a given situation, Keller stated in the memo. There were 13 potential hazards or threats reviewed with all but three scoring a low likelihood of happening. The other three scored a medium likelihood. There were no situations that scored a high risk, according to the memo.

After reviewing this document, the two discussed the various potential hazards and/or threat scenarios and the fire department’s role in those that would require a response from the department. The department’s primary role would be crowd and traffic control as part of most scenarios with the exception of a fire at the facility in which upon determining the scene was safe for the firefighters would be to extinguish the fire.

“I find no problems with participating at the level required. I am very comfortable with the time and thought that has been put into safety at this potential facility. It is my opinion that the proposed project, if approved, would not cause undue burden to the town’s services,” Keller wrote in the memo.

Laurita said at the July 5 meeting that he intends to put the safety plans on the website hopeelephants.org.

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