ROSWELL, N.M. (kRQE) - A horse slaughterhouse in Roswell planning on opening Monday is now facing a new hurdle: A suspicious fire that started over the weekend.
Investigators say from the looks of it, the fire may have been intentional. The owner has no doubt.
Busted wires, piles of ash and a stench of gasoline are all still evident after a Saturday fire at Valley Meat Company.
"Very clearly someone knew what they were up to and tried to set a fire to disable those and potentially destroy the plant," said Valley Meat attorney Blair Dunn.
Valley Meat owner Rick De Los Santos says he's used to people threatening him, but not to this extent.
"People that will go light a fire at your facility or people that will go threaten your life or go threaten your kids life," is wrong, said Valley Meat owner Rick De Los Santos.
Dunn says the fire targeted the plant's electrical refrigeration system.
"It did do some damage to the those refrigeration units which are a life blood and a critical component for the operation of the plant," he said.
Dunn says one unit provides electricity to the entire plant and without it, the horse slaughterhouse can't function.
He says when investigators got to the plant, there was a strong smell of gasoline and a particular fire pattern that made them believe the flames were set intentionally.
"Anyone that is willing to resort to that kind of activity doesn't have a whole lot of regard for life and property of people and that's a very scary aspect," Dunn said.
De Los Santos says he's just trying to make a living.
"Why are they coming after us? We are wanting to do a lawful, legal business, that's it," he said.
According to the Roswell deputy fire chief, the fire is under investigation. He would not give any other details.
De Los Santos says he's looking into adding security cameras around the property to prevent attacks like this.
Those at Valley Meat say maintenance crews will replace the damaged refrigeration units this week so the plant can open on Monday, Aug. 5.
The company will be in federal court Friday to fight attempts by animal rights groups seeking a restraining order to block the opening.
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