Collier man who saved rhino still recovering from 2017 fires

Donovan Smith got his lungs checked Tuesday to see how much damage was done after he stayed behind to save his rhinoceros from ravaging brush fires in 2017.

Smith, NGALA Wildlife Preserve CEO, rushed to rescue Walter the rhino on April 21 when flames from an intense Golden Gate Estates wildfire tore through the preserve, forcing the animals to be evacuated.

“I’d do it all again … I’d just wear a long sleeve shirt and some pants,” Smith said.

More: Rhino evacuated during Golden Gate fire reunites with caretaker

Smith needed skin graphs after the fires and is still being monitored for the damage done to his lungs.

“I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life and it was like smoking 50K cigs in 10 mins, which is kinda a bummer since I live pretty dang healthy,” Smith said.

Smith is still working to get his preserve and his home back to normal, especially after Hurricane Irma blew through Collier County just five months after the fire.

“Basically what didn’t burn, blew over,” Smith said. “That song ‘I’ve seen fire, I’ve seen rain,’ I lived it.”

Smith is expected to learn just how badly his lungs were damaged on Friday.

Reporter:Olivia Mancino
Writer:Katherine Viloria
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