ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Ever since the Second Chance Wildlife Sanctuary burned last week, killing more than 40 animals, the man who lives next door says he’s barely able to go out in public.
"Every time I go to a store, everyone talks about me," said Brian Ramphal, who claims he’s been threatened online and at his home.
The threats and the gossip come even though the fire marshal said the fire was not suspicious. The deadly fire followed months of a very public neighborly conflict that Channel 9 reported about just three days before the fire.
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Ramphal said he was sound asleep when the fire started last Monday. The sound of his dogs barking woke him up, he said.
“I looked out to see the haze of fire,” Ramphal said. “I told my wife… I woke her up and said, ‘call 911.’”
Ramphal said he moved next door to the animal sanctuary about five years ago. He said he had no problem with his neighbor, Jim Bronzo, or his animals until last year.
Ramphal said the animals needed better care and supervision. Bronzo said Ramphal had been firing gunshots and setting off explosives, which Bronzo said were scaring the animals.
The two neighbors and their attorneys were supposed to meet to settle their differences. But the day before the scheduled meeting, Bronzo’s animal sanctuary burned to the ground. More than 40 dogs, snakes, birds and tortoises died. Bronzo escaped uninjured.
Since the fire, Ramphal said people have accused him of setting Bronzo's house on fire.
Ramphal said the dispute and fire are nothing more than a tragedy and bad timing. Ramphal said the day of the fire, the fire marshal told him they did not suspect he had anything to do with it.
Last week, the fire marshal confirmed that the fire was not suspicious at all, but Ramphal says that is not enough for some people. He said he had to put up cameras at his house just to protect his family from the people who just won't leave them alone.
Ramphal said he stopped shooting his guns before the fire as a good faith effort.
Even now, Ramphal said he would help Bronzo rebuild. But for now, the two aren't talking and no new meeting has been scheduled.
Friends of the owner of the Second Chance Animal Sanctuary have set up a GoFundMe page to help rebuild the property.
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