Horse slaughterhouse fire may be arson

Posted at: 07/30/2013 6:41 PM
By: Lauren Hansard, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Days before it is set to open, a fire at the horse slaughter plant near Roswell is called suspicious.

Sizzled wires, ashes, and burned compressors are what are left of Valley Meat Company’s refrigeration unit.

Chaves County Sheriff’s Department said substances that could have been used to start the fire were found on the units and there is reason to believe it was arson.  The owners are sure of it.

"It didn't start on its own, somebody had to have started it," said Rick De Los Santos, Owner of Valley Meat Company.

They believe someone jumped the fence at the corner of the property to get in.  Saying the fire could have grown a lot worse if a passerby had not called 911.

"It looks like there was kind of a fire underneath some of the steps there.  It kind of looks suspicious to me, that place has been kind of making national attention lately, and I just happened to see it driving by," said the 911 caller.

The owners said the refrigeration units are vital to the plant’s opening.

Now that the refrigeration units are burned, there is no way to refrigerate the meat.  Without these units, the plant can’t open.

De Los Santos said the company now has to replace all five compressors at $4,500 apiece, which will be costly, but won’t delay the opening.

"They're going to be able to get them repaired and ready to go by Monday," said Blair Dunn, Attorney for Valley Meat Company.

The company’s attorney said if it is arson, the suspect could face federal charges.  That is because of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

The company is going to federal court Friday to fight attempts by the Humane Society and other groups to block the plant from opening.

If approved and the refrigeration units are replaced by Monday, the plant will open.